NEW YORK (RNS) Octomom Nadya Suleman and Jon and Kate Gosselin have it easy compared to Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, the Arkansas couple that heads the ever-expanding family of TLC’s “18 Kids and Counting.” She’s currently pregnant with baby number 19.
The Duggars, who are conservative Baptists, shun all forms of family planning, believing that God will give them as many “blessings” as he sees fit. Since early in their marriage, the couple has left the size of their family in God’s hands.
Michelle and Jim Bob recently renewed their wedding vows on the show and spoke about possible names for their new baby (it will start with a J, just like all the others), how they keep their marriage alive and why they won’t allow their faith edited out of the show.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What do Michelle’s doctors say about her having so many children? Is she healthy enough to continue to have children?
Michelle: The last time we delivered our baby, (my doctor) said my uterus looked wonderful. I’m just thankful that I have good health. I don’t take that for granted.
Q: If you were ever advised not to have any more children for health reasons, would you consider some sort of family planning?
Michelle: I don’t know. I’m not at that place. I guess we would just cross that bridge when we got there. If there was something that were life threatening for me, that would be a matter of prayer.
Q: Have you decided on a new name for the new baby?
Michelle: We’ve got a lot to choose from! As a family we all get together and vote on the (names) that we like best.
Q: Any top contenders?
Michelle: Daddy likes Julie if it’s a girl. I think he’s kind of been hoping for a Julie along the way.
Q: How do you keep your marriage alive and find time for yourselves with so many children?
Jim Bob: One thing that we try to do is each week is to have a date night, where Michelle and I go out together. We try to go out to eat or go for a walk or just spend time talking, planning, talking about things that are coming up.
Michelle: And praying together.
Q: Do you come across a lot of negative reactions being such a large family?
Michelle: Typically when we’re out as a group, there’s probably more positive response. For the most part, people are like, “Wow, your kids are really well behaved!” But, there’s always those other ideas and thinking, of overpopulation or whatever. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion.
Q: What do you say to those critics?
Michelle: Every family has to do what they feel they’re called to do. We’re not out there telling people this is the way everybody else needs to live, because by all means, this is not for everyone. God wouldn’t give everybody 19 children. We realize that there’s a different calling for different people. We’re not about to judge anybody and tell them what they ought to do. That same kindness can be extended both directions.
Q: You’ve mentioned that you have allowed cameras into your home as long as your faith was not edited out. Do you think reality TV in general has done a good job reflecting the lives of people of faith?
Michelle: We really don’t know about the other reality shows. The one they’re making with our family, they let us preview the rough edits and whatnot. They want to be sensitive to our family, our family values, our faith and allowing it to be portrayed in the way we usually do things around our house.
Jim Bob: That’s one reason the show has been so successful because there’s very few shows on secular television that show anybody’s (faith), especially Christianity. God’s blessed it and people are drawn to it because of that.
Q: One thing that has intrigued many of your viewers is your family policy on dancing. Do you not allow your children to dance or listen to music?
Jim Bob: I used to listen to hard rock music, Michelle did too. Then I went to a Christian seminar and they talked about getting rid of secular rock music. And I did that. As a family, we listen to a lot of classical music.
Michelle: And hymns.
Jim Bob: As far as dancing, it’s our personal conviction that a lot of times, when a guy sees a girl dance, it really can build up sensual desires that you cannot rightfully fulfill. Now, if my wife and I want to dance privately or something, in our room, between a husband and wife is fine.
Q: Do you expect most of your children will go on to have large families?
Michelle: That’ll be up to each one of them individually. The ones who are older and have been talking about marriage and family, they have expressed a desire to have a large family. But, they might not be able to. You just don’t know. I guess we’ll kind of have to wait and see how it all turns out with grandbabies. But, I know I’d love to have a lot of grandbabies. That would be fun.