I used to think Meredith Vieira was a journalist, but the only explanation for her fawning over the Duggar clan on Tuesday morning’s Today Show interview must be that she is a hired gun from Team Duggar or that she in interviewing for Entertainment Tonight. Or both.
Meredith started the interview by introducing the Duggars as “America’s favorite family.” I do not think that is an accurate statement. It would be fair to say “One of America’s most polarizing families,” but not favorite. There are many people who feel that a carbon foot print as big as theirs is not responsible. There are also many people who feel that children shouldn’t be asked to co-parent.
Meredith threw soft ball after soft ball. We learned that Josie, like most 25 weekers, had a very rocky start. It’s a miracle was mentioned many, many times. We learned about her lactose intolerance and how she still needs oxygen at night, but most of the questions were benign. I was literally on pins and needles waiting to hear about the color of her layette.
And then at the end, Merideth asked the question. Will they have more kids? Apparently Michele and Jim Bob are open to the idea.
Lots of smiles all around and then…commercial. Next segment.
A good journalist would have asked that question first and skipped asking the kids, “What’s it like to have your sister home?”
I wonder if Meredith felt she was limited because of the kids? I am reminded of the drug seeking patients who bring their young children to their doctor’s appointment, thinking the doctor will be too uncomfortable to discuss drug abuse and just provide a prescription for Vicodin, Norco, or whatever.
That tactic does not work on me. I don’t pull any punches, because patients come to me for good medical care and likewise, I watch the news for journalism. I get that having their 18 or 19 kids (or however many were actually present, because between you and me, I didn’t count) is good for their brand, but as a consumer of news I am not interested in the Duggar brand, I am interested in the news brand. Meaning, are you going to ask the questions that need to be asked or are you just a moving picture version of People Magazine?
If Matt Lauer can go mano a mano with Tom Cruise about his comments on post-partum depression, surely Meredith can ask a couple in Arkansas some real questions? Questions that everyone around the country is wondering and questions that every parent of a preemie is asking.
1) Michelle, you just said that you are open to more children. Do you mean another pregnancy or adoption? If you mean another pregnancy, you have a more than 60% chance of developing severe preeclampisa before 28 weeks. Meaning, in all reality, there is a 60% chance that you will have another extremely premature baby. Do you think it is ethical to have expose a baby to these risks, knowing more than 30% of babies born this early with have a moderate or severe disability?
2) You mentioned many times that God had a role in Josie’s survival. What do you mean by that? Do you think God picks who lives and who dies? Premature babies born in 3rd world countries are more likely to die, so is that part of God’s plan or do you think access to good medical care has any role? You also mentioned it is a miracle. A miracle that you had great health care and health insurance, or simply a miracle?
3) You have stated many times that you do not take government assistance and that you are proud of being financially responsible for your children. But babies who weigh less than 1,200 grams at birth are immediately Medicaid eligible. It is a Federal Law. Your NICU will have billed Medicaid for anything your insurance did not cover, which in most cases is a lot of money. A typical bill for a 25 week baby in the NICU is over $500,000. There is also a lot of essential follow-up medical care not covered by the majority of health insurances, so will you use Josie’s Medicaid to access those services?
4) Most babies born at 25 weeks require extensive physical therapy and occupational therapy as well as countless visits with doctors. How will you find time to do that if you are also home schooling your children? As your older children co-parent, if you get pregnant again do you think a 15 or 16 year old can be trusted to provide the complex needs of a former 25 week baby?
5) If you get pregnant again, the risks to your health are great considering you have a 60% risk of developing severe preeclampsia. This is not a benign disease – preeclampsia is the third most common cause of maternal death in this country. That means 790 women die from preeclampsia for for every 100,000 babies born alive in the United States. Do you think it is ethical to put yourself in this kind of potential harm knowing that the best thing for a child is a healthy mom?
Many moms, myself included, who have an extremely premature baby wrestle daily with the idea of having another child. Could I take another 5 or 6 or 7 months or longer in the NICU? How will I give my older child the intensive attention they need with another baby? What if I am hospitalized on bed rest or have another preemie – who will do the PT, the OT, change the oxygen tanks, and remember the medications for my child at home? What if I have another preemie and she is severely disabled?
The news story for me was the answers to the hard questions, because I want to know if they are simply promoting their brand (because saying they are open to more kids sure got tons of repeat airtime and set many blogs a blaze) or are they really that blind to the risks? I am not saying that having another baby is right or wrong, but you cannot deny that it may have serious consequences.
For the record, I would field those questions myself any day.
1) I won’t get pregnant again, I don’t feel I can trust my body. I am totally open to adopting a preemie, because our family was meant to be three.
2) I don’t think God had anything to do with my two of my kids surviving and one dying. What kind of god allows a newborn to die in his mother’s arms? I think that state of the art medical care provided by the amazing doctors and nurses at University Hospital is responsible for saving my boys. I think hard work at home helped them to thrive. I think that many babies, despite excellent care, are not as fortunate as my boys, because many other factors, such as birth weight and infection, also affect outcome.
3) My two boys had Medicaid for a year. It would have been impossible for us to pay for all their needs without it. No parent can.
4) Because our boys required so much PT, OT and other services the thought of having another baby did not cross our mind. All we could think about was helping our two boys live their best life. Now that my boys are seven the idea of a third has moved into my conscious mind.
5) As an OB/GYN I have seen women die from preeclampsia. I will never forget a patient whose brain swelling was so severe that a neurosurgeon drilled holes into her skull to try and relieve the pressure. It did not work. The pressure in her head created by the swelling pushed her brain downwards into her spinal cord and she died. I still remember her face.
Of course, if the Duggar’s don’t want to face the hard questions, they certainly don’t have to appear on national television. Then again, a new season on their show was returning that night on TLC.
Ultimately, my issue is with NBC, because everyone tries to get on to the morning shows to promote their brand. It is the job of a television crew to make that into news, not an infomercial. Making the segment a piece of fluff makes prematurity look like “golly gee, it was sure a scary ride, but everything is just fine now.” That is not the reality of an extremely premature baby, and it cheapens prematurity for those of us who have wrestled with these very difficult questions on many a night until the wee hours of the morning.