If you haven’t yet heard, Bristol Palin is pregnant with her third child. More revealing than that happy news though, has been some of the snarky reactions it’s inspired in the media and on Twitter.
CBS News briefly shared the news of baby number three before rehashing a litany of largely embarrassing Bristol news since 2008 (a.k.a., high school). USA Today oh so neutrally observed, “Now the ‘Pro-Life, Pro-God, Pro-Guns’ Palin is prepping for Baby No. 3.”
TMZ warned, “Bristol Palin has bun #3 in the oven … which means the honeymoon is officially over for Bristol and her husband.” And The Daily Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi ignited a firestorm on Twitter with one of the cattiest responses ever to a pregnancy announcement, opining: “At this rate it would be less work for Bristol Palin to announce when she is not pregnant.”
I don’t typically follow Bristol Palin’s comings and goings. But as a fellow preggo, I found all of this unbelievably tasteless. Three pregnancies in, I’m well aware that strangers say the oddest — and sometimes rudest — things to pregnant women. However, just because a comment enters someone’s head doesn’t mean that it should be shared aloud, or tweeted.
For anyone still in doubt, the socially appropriate response to a woman who gleefully shares the news of her pregnancy is “Congratulations!” It is not shaming or mocking the expectant mother.
In Palin’s case in particular, there are a number of reasons it’s time to cut her some slack. There are also some valuable lessons the rest of us could learn from her:
1. You Can Survive Public Shaming
Palin has already endured enough public humiliation to last a lifetime. Most pregnant teens don’t have to deal with both pregnancy hormones and the intense scrutiny of a presidential campaign simultaneously. And if we’re being honest, most of us didn’t have the best taste in high school. We likely wasted time on boys who wouldn’t grow up to be husband and father material. Palin lived it all in the spotlight, and she’s still here. That takes guts.
2. Live Your Values
Unwed teen pregnancy is never an ideal situation. However, Palin deserves credit for embracing the unplanned, living her family’s pro-life values, and doing her best to raise her son Tripp with her family’s support.
3. Learn From Your Mistakes
Parenting is an awe-inspiring and soul-expanding experience. But if you’re going into it solo and as a teenager, it’s also incredibly hard. There’s no doubt that caring for a small human is much harder than handling typical teenage angst, and Palin had the courage to acknowledge that publicly in 2009, telling Matt Lauer: “’I’m just here to tell teens this is a really hard job. . . . It’s not like an accessory on your hip. It’s hard work.’” Palin also deserves credit for working out her issues with Medal of Honor winner Dakota Meyer, who is now both her husband and the father of two of her three children.
4. Embrace the Blessings of Family
Children are a blessing. Of course, as one in eight American couples remind us, children are a blessing that can elude many adults, including those who desperately wish to be parents.
Many of us build our lives around family, because strong relationships with family members give our lives meaning and fill them with joys both large and small. American elites too often forget this, painting children as bothersome, or even parasitic.
So, I respect Palin and Meyers’ announcing the impending birth of their second child together by specifically celebrating family and acknowledging their good fortune: “We are so excited to announce that our family is expanding! . . . God has blessed us so much; we are thankful for His grace and new beginnings. A springtime baby in the Meyer home and we can’t wait!’”
5. Create the Family You Want
If you aspire to have more than one or two kids, you’ll want to do two things: First, find a partner who supports that goal. Second, get started as early as you can.
Getting pregnant isn’t always as easy as we might think after coming out of sex ed. However, a woman’s twenties are prime time for fertility. So, biologically speaking, it’s the ideal time to start a family. A woman should have an easier time conceiving then than she might at a later age. Or, if she runs into fertility challenges, she’ll have more time to seek out possible alternatives.
Bristol grew up as one of five children. If she hopes to have several children of her own, the 26-year-old is wise not to wait, especially now that she’s settled into a stable, married life with someone who can help her raise those little ones.
6. Be Patriotic and Multiply
Not everyone wants be a parent, but for those of us who do — and don’t face fertility challenges — it makes sense to max out on the number of children your family can handle emotionally, financially, spiritually, and otherwise. After all, there’s no greater statement of optimism about the future than having a baby.
Yet right now, many Americans aren’t doing that. “In the first three months of 2016, the fertility rate in the US fell to the lowest level. The rate was 59.8 births per 1,000 women.” If we want to remain a young(ish), vibrant nation with a strong economy, there is one perpetual necessity: a growing population of munchkins.
Here’s hoping that The Wall Street Journal is right and that younger millennials are eager to pick up the slack. Perhaps some of them will even take a page from Bristol Palin’s latest chapter, embracing marriage, motherhood, and their right to have more than two children.