Saturday, December 17, 2011

There Are Never Enough Photos, or Why People Need to STFU About the Duggars

It feels weird to be writing in defense of a family with whom I am so at odds. At first, the Duggars were simply some anomaly to me. My ambivalence about them hardly elicited a raised eyebrow. And then my own baby died, and this enormous, continuously-reproducing family was the symbol of everything the Universe was denying me. I couldn't think about them without ire. How DARE they keep having kids? They seemed to spite me; I took every morning show announcement straight to my heart and, frankly, hated everything they represented.

And this kind of flew in the face of my pro-choice beliefs. If I was truly pro-choice, as I have lived my entire life, then who was I to judge how another woman handles her reproductive life? I had no leg to stand on, no matter how much they irritated me. I was simply feeling they were stealing all the good reproductive mojo and hoarding it for their clan. Also, the name Jim Bob really stuck in my craw.

So when they announced that she was pregnant with her TWENTIETH baby, my heart shrank another few sizes and I sent out the ugliness. I didn't wish them harm or ill will, but I felt once again like they, along with the American media, were throwing their good fortune smack in my face. Also, through my own journey, I've made friend whose babies died earlier than the Duggar's last baby, who was born premature, but miraculously lived. And has health issues now, and likely will for the rest of her life. I was angry for my friends, too.

But then their baby died. And all bets were off. Because, you see, most of you know this, but I have a dead baby too. Instantly my heart went to them, no matter the chasm separating our lives, our beliefs. They do have 19 other children, she was possibly putting her life, her baby's life at risk. But it was her choice, her life--and that baby was so loved and wanted already. It doesn't matter that it was her twentieth baby---would it have been different if it was her first? My heart says no.

I admit to being somewhat ignorant about the entire story--mostly because I've backed down from my irrational anger enough to not really care. Also, popular culture and reality, ahem, "stars" don't take up a whole lot of my brainspace. But having just read that she was in the last week of her second trimester when their daughter Jubilee died, that means she was roughly 24 weeks pregnant, right? That means she had to go through labor. That means she had to deliver her dead baby girl. No one waved a  magic wand and POOF! the baby magically appeared, or was simply gone. That kind of warped thinking went through my brain when I learned my baby had died--I had no idea that I'd have to go through all the pains of labor just to say goodbye to my daughter.

And the notion that this family is somehow warped to have taken pictures of their dead baby? Well guess what. I have many, many pictures of my dead baby. Thank. FUCKING. God. Because that, my friends, is ALL I have to remember her beautiful face. And that is all they will have, too. Did people say all those horrible things about me when my baby died? "Oh how GROSS to have pictures?" "Who wants pictures of a DEAD BABY?"

I'll tell you who wants them: NO ONE. What I really wanted was my living child, but all I have is a box full of things that have little connection to her, fading memories and my pictures. And that's all they'll have, too.

So before you judge this family for taking pictures of their dead baby, and sharing them with the people who would have been in this child's life, tell me this: What, exactly, did YOU do when your baby died? Oh wait, you don't HAVE a dead baby?

Lucky. Fucking. You.

**I realize I'm being passive-aggressive by posting this on my babyloss blog, as the majority of you, if not all of you, get it. But maybe someone will share this, or read it and think, "Oh. I get it now."**


  1. Well, as you say, I don't WANT them as such. But I have them. Photos of my own dead baby. And they are all I have so I'll take them thank you very much. Because I loved that baby and I wanted that baby and sadly the photographs are all I have left of her.

    I'm only vaguely aware of the Duggars (being not only out of touch with celeb media but also in the wrong country) so have had to google them in recent weeks. I don't much like their politics or some of their views. I don't much like the name Jim Bob either. And I'm kind of jealous of anyone who manages to produce nineteen living children when I couldn't even manage two. Darn hoarders of the reproductive mojo. But my heart goes out to them despite my jealousy and disagreements. Because even if I had 19 other children, I wouldn't grieve for my first any less.

    But I simply cannot believe the hateful vitriol being spewed on the internet. Oh my. Even before I had pictures of my own I like to think that I would not have held opinions like those expressed so freely on the internet. And those last three words are pretty much all there is to say because all those people doing the judging don't have a dead baby and thus don't have to contemplate whether they would take photographs and share those photographs or not. Lucky. Fucking. Them. And I don't often swear. Even in type.

    Love to you Mary Beth. I was going to write something about this myself but I think you've already said it better than I ever could.

  2. I think one of the hardest things for me to grasp with this whole situation is the questioning of their motives. There are no MOTIVES when your child dies. You are literally on autopilot. And sometimes even your basic needs are neglected. Sleeping, eating, showering. So to question WHY these pictures were released, or to insinuate that the Duggars are somehow making money from them... Well, I find it as sickening as some "people" find the photos.

    And as far as the photos being "disgusting," answer me this: when a photo circulated of a still-in-utero baby grasping a surgeon's finger surrounded by a gaping hole in the mother's abdomen, blood and gore everywhere, circulated the internet, why was that deemed amazing, miraculous, heart-warming and pictures of a tiny hand and tiny feet are "disturbing"? I'm not taking anything away from that baby, that mother, and that surgeon, but why is it so different than the two released photos of the Duggars'? Because that baby is still alive. We fear death, so we turn it into a monster instead of trying to understand it and come to grips with it. Death happens. It's the people who are left behind that suffer, but that doesn't make death something disgusting or disturbing.

    Another issue I have is how the media is portraying this as something unusual. It's not that hard to do a little research. Find out who took the photos, contact the organization, ask a few questions about how many shoots their volunteers have done and reference that against the statistics of stillbirth and neonatal death. Wow, if this dumb hick can figure it out, why can't the people who are paid good money to report this shit?

    And one more point I'd like to make: where has all of our personal responsibility gone? If you don't want to see pictures of a dead baby, don't look at them. There is absolutely no reason that someone who just happens upon these pictures cannot just go to a different website and ignore them. If I read a status update I don't like, I hide it from my newsfeed. If someone posts a picture that upsets me, I hide it from my newsfeed. Why is this such a hard concept to grasp? Don't like it? Don't look at it.

  3. Great post Mary Beth and great response Nerissa.
    Something else that shits me no end is here her birth is referred to as a miscarriage. Jubilee was stillborn. This mother had to go through labour and birth. It's just another way to belittle this families tragedy.

  4. Damn straight, MB.
    And what everyone else said, absolutely.

  5. I really admire you for writing this, Mary Beth. Although I'm not a fan of the Duggars in general, I still think you're right.

    If human compassion for another family, for another baby, for another person, goes out the window...if their loss doesn't matter because they're, well, THEM...I don't know how long it can be before Nazi Germany is right back in business.

    (Not at your house - in society. You know what I'm getting at.)

    I admire you for standing up for the *humanity* of people - even people you may not take a shine to, naturally speaking. You're doing the right thing because it's the right thing, not because it's popular. Bravo.

    Just one more reason to like you, and I do.

    Cathy in Missouri

    P.S. And Nerissa, I completely agree about how people don't have to look if they don't want to. We watched the movie "Fat Head." I keep thinking of the guy standing outside the fast food joints and pointing out how no one ever came close to dragging him in and making him eat.

  6. Could not have said it better myself. I made a statement on facebook about this too.
    People just don't get it until they have held their own dead child. Lucky them.