By Alicia Dennis
September 01, 2014 12:00 PM


During a recent visit to her parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s home, Jill Dillard found there was no shortage of many of the things she’d grown up around: kids, meals, schoolwork, toys—and the ever-ready stash of her mother’s home-pregnancy tests. A few weeks into her marriage to husband Derick, Jill, 23, had already taken a few of her own (just in case!), and each had come back negative, but at her sisters’ urging she gave one of Mom’s a try. The result was something a Michelle Duggar pregnancy test often reveals: positive! “It was surreal,” says Derick, 25, who tried to soothe his wife as she screamed with glee. “I told her, ‘Babe, you don’t want to hyperventilate and have the baby stressed-out!'” But for Jill, a trained midwife who has also had ample practice caring for her many younger siblings, the news that she was going to be a parent herself took a while to sink in. “We were both so excited,” she says, “and so completely shocked!”

Of course it’s not entirely surprising that the pair are already starting a family. After all, that’s the Duggar way, as viewers have come to know watching TLC’s hit show 19 Kids & Counting, launching its new season on Sept. 2. Both born and raised in Arkansas, Jill, one of 19 siblings, and Derick, one of just two, subscribe to fundamentalist Christian beliefs supporting Bible teachings and leaving how many kids a couple have “up to God.” Since they were introduced by her father, Jim Bob, 49, who got to know Derick through the young man’s missionary work in Nepal, the pair have enjoyed a whirlwind romance that began with courting—old-fashioned dating without physical contact. In March the pair got engaged, after which side hugs gave way to hand holding. And on June 21 they exchanged vows—and a passionate first kiss!—in front of more than 1,000 wedding guests in Springdale, Ark. (Next up her sister Jessa will head down the aisle; see box.)

Since then family, friends and fans have been taking bets on how long it would be before a baby carriage was going to make an appearance in their Rogers, Ark., household. The answer? Not long. “We got pregnant a little less than two weeks after we got married,” Jill says, sitting down for a (very) candid interview on Aug. 16 in Little Rock, where she had a scheduled appearance alongside her husband, sister Jessa and soon-to-be brother-in-law Ben at a local church. Yes, that was quick. But the lack of an extended newlywed period isn’t bothering her. “We may not get a few years alone together, but God doesn’t just pop babies out. You have nine months to grow together as a couple,” she says. “Our version of ‘normal’ is just going to be with a baby on the way.”

Of course, “normal” for the Duggar family might seem extreme to many others. Her parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, 47, have always been clear that the 19 kids they have are all “gifts from God,” and they will have as many children as “God gives them.” Even after their 19th child, Josie, was born dangerously prematurely in 2009 at just 25 weeks and a mere 1 lb. 6 oz.—with Michelle herself facing life-threatening preeclampsia—she got pregnant again two years later, ultimately suffering a heartbreaking mid-pregnancy miscarriage of their daughter Jubilee. And even though doctors tell her that her childbearing days may be over, Michelle is still open to having more children, if possible.

Jill has a similar attitude when it comes to her own family. “Derick and I want to leave up to God how many children we would have, whether that is two or 20,” she says. But they’re still figuring out what works for them as a couple in their new marriage. The pair hope to be missionaries abroad and are working on making that a reality. “It could be as early as two years or five years from now that we’d go,” says Derick, who currently works as an accountant. “I know that navigating cultures can be hard for kids,” he concedes. But in the grand Duggar tradition, “we will probably homeschool.”

With their long-term goals in place, the pair are enjoying getting ready for their new arrival. Though all of Jill’s siblings have names that start with “J” and her older brother Josh, 26, and his wife, Anna, 26, have selected “M” names so far for their three children, she and Derick don’t plan on abiding by any particular naming theme. “My dad was the very first to suggest a boy’s name: Jim Bob,” says Jill, laughing. While that’s not on the short list, “we do have very similar ideas in names,” Jill says, and the couple are enjoying spending their evening walks talking about their future as parents. And as she nears the end of her first trimester, Jill says she’s eagerly anticipating the gender reveal. “I want to find out and plan!” she says emphatically. As for their preferences? “If a boy looks like Derick, he is going to be cute,” says Jill, to which Derick counters, “I feel the same way if it’s a girl.”

Her biggest obstacle so far has been staving off the morning sickness that has been plaguing her for a month. “It shouldn’t be called morning sickness,” she says ruefully. “It is lasting all day and through the night.” Proving himself to be a devoted husband, “Derick is doing a good job taking care of me,” Jill boasts. “He wakes up and gets me peppermint and water, and puts snacks like granola and toast by the bed.”

Though the beginning of her pregnancy has been a bit of a challenge, Jill is fearless when it comes to her birth plan. Looking ahead to her March due date, Jill, who has assisted approximately 70 births herself, says she is planning to do it at home. “I think home birth is really special because you are in your own environment,” she says. “You don’t have to pick up, move and have that stall labor. I am looking forward to having the calm, intimate setting of being home.”

For the grandparents-to-be, the excitement is palpable. “I have never seen Jim Bob like this—his daddy heartstrings are really being pulled, and he tears up a lot,” Michelle reveals. “Jill is such a loving person. She will be a wonderful mother. It is definitely an exciting season of life.” And for Derick’s mother, Cathy, 57, who battled cancer in the last year and was declared cancer-free after an intense round of chemotherapy this summer, the news couldn’t have been more welcome. “I can’t wait to hold this baby,” she says. “I know they will dote on this child.”

Though Jill’s experience as an older sibling to 15 prepared her for many child-rearing responsibilities, becoming a mom is a unique joy all her own. “It will be wonderful to see what our child looks like, what our child’s personality will be,” she says softly, looking up at Derick. “I can’t wait to meet our child and be a family.”