Though she says she doesn’t regret being a mom at 18, Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol said she would campaign to prevent teen pregnancies.
“I don’t regret it at all,” Bristol Palin told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren Monday night in her first interview since giving birth to her son, Tripp, on Dec. 28. “I just wish it had happened in 10 years, not now.”
As governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin has been an advocate of abstinence-only sex education in public schools. But her daughter said that expecting teens to eschew the pleasures of the flesh is “unrealistic.”
Bristol, who continues to live at home with her parents while finishing high school, said she enjoys motherhood. “I like being a mom. I love it. Just like seeing him smile and stuff, it’s awesome. It is very challenging, but it’s so rewarding,” she said.
She said she’s had plenty of practice caring for children. “I’ve been baby-sitting my whole life,” she said. What makes it tough is “realizing I’m not living for myself right now.”
Bristol’s pregnancy became national news just days after Sarah Palin was named Sen. John McCain’s Republican running mate last summer. Tripp’s father is Levi Johnston, Bristol’s classmate and a star on their high school’s hockey team. During the campaign, the governor said that Bristol and Johnston were planning a summer 2009 wedding.
The governor and her husband, Todd Palin, have been publicly supportive of their daughter throughout her pregnancy and after she gave birth. In an interview with TODAY’s Natalie Morales later in the Tuesday show, Lorenzo Benet, who wrote “Trailblazer,” a recently published biography of Sarah Palin, said that the pregnancy had not been in the governor’s master plan.
“Gov. Palin indicated it wasn’t the first thing she had in mind for her 17-year-old daughter,” said Benet, who is assistant editor of People magazine. “She wanted [Bristol] to finish high school, go to college, get a job. And I think it was really difficult for the family to come to grips with this over time. But also over time, Gov. Palin accept[ed] reality, and they moved on and seem to be doing quite well.”
Bristol told Van Susteren that she and the baby’s father want to get married, but not right now. Both are finishing school, and Johnston is looking to start a career. The teen mom described Johnston as a “hands-on” dad who’s very involved with Tripp. “He’s in love with him as much as I am,” Bristol said.
Bristol Palin calls motherhood “very challenging, but so rewarding.”
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She said that telling her parents she was pregnant was “harder than labor.” To break the news, she assembled her best friend and Johnston on a couch with her parents. But when it came time to tell her parents she was pregnant, Bristol said she felt sick to her stomach and couldn’t get the words out.
“My friend blurted it out,” she said, adding that her memory of the event is cloudy. “It’s something I don’t want to remember.”
In ways, Bristol’s reluctance mirrored her own mother’s difficulty telling her children more than a year ago that she was pregnant. Benet told Morales that Gov. Palin kept the pregnancy secret from her four other children as long as she could.
“She had a difficult time getting her arms around it,” Benet told Morales. “For Gov. Palin it was prayer, a lot of reading, a lot of writing. She came to grips with it. The day he was born, I think, that’s when she really accepted him.”
Benet also reported that while Bristol was pregnant last year, she was living in Anchorage with her aunt and uncle, Heather and Kurt Bruce, and working at two espresso shops — while also attending West High School. Johnston remained 40 miles away in Wasilla, the Palins’ hometown, but the two continued dating.
Sarah Palin is ardently pro-life, but Bristol said that didn’t affect her own decision to have her baby rather than terminate the pregnancy. “It doesn’t matter what my mom’s views are on it. It was my decision,” she told Van Susteren.