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Image: Michelle, Jim Bob and baby Josie Duggar
TLC / Scott Enlow
Josie Brooklyn Duggar, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggars' 19th child, is thriving in almost every way after being born 15 weeks premature. She remains hospitalized, though, because of ongoing digestive issues.
TODAY contributor
updated 5/7/2010 7:24:49 AM ET 2010-05-07T11:24:49

Tiny little Josie, the youngest and most fragile member of the supersized Duggar family, is getting bigger and stronger every day — yet she must remain hospitalized for the time being.

On a jubilant day in early April, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar actually brought their 19th child home. Josie had been born 15 weeks premature on Dec. 10 and weighed just 1 pound, 6 ounces at the time. But by April 6, she seemed ready to leave the hospital.

“It was very exciting to have the whole family together for a short time,” Jim Bob Duggar said in a telephone interview. “She only weighed about four and a half pounds or so when we brought her home, so she was still very fragile.”

In fact, just two days later, Josie had to be rushed back to the neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital in Little Rock, Ark. Serious constipation caused the baby girl’s vital signs to flag.

She’s remained in the hospital ever since. Doctors are continuing to monitor her ongoing digestive issues. In every other area, though — brain tests, heart tests, lung tests, eye tests, ear tests — she’s doing remarkably well. And as she approaches the ripe old age of 5 months, she’s weighing in at 5 pounds, 15 ounces.

“She’s almost made it to the 6-pound mark!” mom Michelle Duggar said happily. “She’s thriving and gaining weight ... She’s already smiling at us and doing all those cute little baby things. We’re just trying to get her little plumbing problems fixed.”

Help from the whole family
The Duggars’ family life is regularly chronicled in the TLC reality series “19 Kids and Counting.” Josie’s emotional April homecoming will be featured on the show on Sunday, May 9 — Mother’s Day.

Her harrowing trip back to the hospital will be shown on Tuesday, May 11.

Image: The Duggar family
The Duggars shared the news about their latest addition live from Little Rock, Ark., on TODAY in January.
The Duggars said their 18 older children have been outstandingly supportive throughout the stressful ordeal surrounding their youngest sibling’s premature birth by emergency C-section. Most of the family has had to relocate to Little Rock from their home three hours away in northwest Arkansas so they can be close to Josie and her medical team.

The Duggars’ oldest adult sons have been mowing the lawn and taking care of the house during the family’s five-month absence. Their oldest daughters have been helping with their younger siblings when mom and dad must spend long hours at the hospital.

Video: Web only: Duggar kids excited to welcome baby “It’s easier now in some ways than when we just had five children,” Jim Bob Duggar said. “Half our children are really adults now. ... It’s an amazing, well-oiled machine.”

“Teamwork!” Michelle Duggar cheered.

Waiting and wondering
For the time being, Josie is being bottle-fed expressed breast milk fortified with a little bit of medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil to help her gain weight. She’s thriving on that diet, but still needs enemas on a regular basis.

The Duggars don’t have a clear idea of when they’ll be able to take their baby girl home again.

“When they find some more answers for sure about her digestion, they’ll probably feel better about releasing her,” Michelle Duggar said. “We just have to wait and see what they say.”

“19 Kids and Counting: Josie Comes Home”will air on TLC on Sunday, May 9 — Mother’s Day — at 8 p.m. ET/PT (7 p.m. CT). Josie’s trip back to the hospital will be featured on Tuesday, May 11 at 9 p.m. ET/PT (8 p.m. CT).

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Video: Duggar mom says 19th birth was ‘scary’

  1. Closed captioning of: Duggar mom says 19th birth was ‘scary’

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    >>> back now at 8:11 with one of our favorite families, the duggars. parents jim bob and michelle became the proud parents of their 19th child back in december. this morning we have an exclusive first look at their daughter, josie brooklyn. she was born 3 1/2 months premature, but we are happy to report both mom and baby are doing well. jim bob , michelle , and most of the duggar clan are with us this morning. nice to see you all.

    >> good morning.

    >> good morning. michelle , we have been waiting seven weeks to see baby josie . i know that she's still in the hospital in the nicu unit, so she's not with us this morning or with you, but you have some good news to report as to how she's doing. can you tell us about her?

    >> yes. little josie is 7 weeks old today, and that's a lot to celebrate, and she's doing very good. she has already doubled in weight. so, she now weighs 2 pounds and 4 ounces.

    >> yeah, i understand she was born at, i guess it was 1 pound, 6 ounces, and she was on a ventilator until just recently, but things are definitely seem to be looking up. i want to take you back to that day that she was born, december 10th . you had been in some difficulty prior to that, michelle . you had been brought into the hospital a few days earlier suffering from a gall stone and then you developed preeclampsia, high blood pressure , and the doctors decided they had to take the baby within 30 minutes . can you describe that day to me?

    >> oh, i think that day was one of the most scary moments of my life, realizing that little josie was going to be born early, and we didn't know -- i mean, i was just scared to death thinking here she's only, you know, she's 15 weeks away from her due date , will she survive? and it is amazing how they can sustain life at such a tiny, tiny age. and so, arkansas children's hospital has done a wonderful job, and umas. they just -- it's amazing what they can do with little babies .

    >> jim bob , what are your memories of that day? because here you are with your wife and your unborn child , and i guess there must have been some fear that you could possibly lose both of them.

    >> yes. preeclampsia happens to about 5% to 8% of all pregnancies in all women, but we thought that maybe we would be able to keep the pregnancy going for many more months, maybe 3 1/2 months, so she could be full-term, but it was so scary when she had to deliver early, but that is the cure for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby. so, anyway, we -- i know when they came in and said they needed to deliver in 30 minutes it was one of the scariest moments of our lives, but we really felt like that was what we needed to do, and we're so thankful that michelle 's doing great and the baby's doing great, and we're just so blessed.

    >> you've moved most of the family to little rock to be closer to josie so they have a chance to see her, whether in pictures or physically. i know, jill, you're old enough to visit your little sister . how would you describe her?

    >> yes, ma'am. she is so precious. i think just seeing a baby that small, it's amazing. i just cry like every time i go there. just, she's so little, and her -- like her whole hand can barely wrap around my pinky. so, just seeing that precious little life and that it can be sustained at that age, and it's beautiful.

    >> i know you are used to newborns around your house, but is there something special about josie ?

    >> there is. she's a little doll. i mean, she's so tiny. i was actually out of the country when she was born, so i had heard, oh, she's 1 pound, 6 ounces. i was like, wow, but i couldn't imagine the size. and trying to figure that out in my mind, and then whenever i finally got to see her, she is itty-bitty. she's my little itty-bitty. but she's so precious and beautiful.

    >> yeah. she looks beautiful to me as well. jim bob , is she out of the woods at this point? i know with preemies, it's pretty much a day-by-day experience up until the time when they reach the moment of their true birth date , which i think for her would have been march 18th or close to that.

    >> correct. normally, they keep them in the hospital until when they would have been born, and they take about three steps forward and two steps back. they say never trust a preemie. she'll do good for a few days and then her saturation level or heart level will go down for a few minutes, then it will go back up, and that's just typical for a preemie. but overall, she's done very well and she's gained a pound and probably within the next month she'll probably gain another pound or two, and we look forward to the day that we can bring her home to join the rest of the bunch.

    >> and we look forward to that as well. jim bob , michelle and the rest of the duggar gang, congratulations on baby josie . i get the "j" part, and the middle name is brooklyn. we love that here in new york. thank you guys very much.

    >> thank you, meredith.

    >> thank you.

    >> and by the way, "19 kids and

    counting: special duggar delivery" airs saturday, january 31st , on tlc.

    >>> coming up, what parents need


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