It has long bothered me the way we feel free to talk about Bristol Palin merely because of choices she made. As I now parent an adopted child whose birth mother made some difficult emotional decisions, not unlike those Bristol Palin made, my attitude towards Bristol have changed. Blast Sarah all you wish, but leave Bristol alone.
Commentary By: Steven Reynolds
The bottom line is that Bristol Palin is now a mother, a teen mother, and that will make it tough for her. It is time for Greta Van Susteren to leave Bristol Palin alone, it is time for Rebecca Traister of Salon Magazine to leave Bristol Palin alone, and it is time for bloggers to leave Bristol Palin alone. Go ahead and comment, if you please, on Sarah Palin and her new tax problems, but it is time for us all to let Bristol Palin make decisions about her life and that of her son.
There. I said it. I said it not as a political commentator but as a father of an adopted son whose birth mother also had to make some very difficult decisions about pregnancy, childbirth, and whether to keep the baby or make an adoption plan. I’m personally grateful that my son’s birth mother made that adoption plan, as he lights up my life even as I write this short piece. (That’s my pride and joy right there on the left.) I just can’t imagine the difficulty of making a decision about an unexpected pregnancy, and that’s what Bristol Palin’s was. It just isn’t in me anymore to judge her. What we should do instead is try to understand the very difficult decisions young women, women of all ages, for that matter, go through when they find themselves unprepared for a pregnancy.
Today’s issue of Philadelphia Weekly gives us some insight into just this matter. The article is written by Jennifer Merrill, and she describes herself as follows. From Philadelphia Weekly:
I’m 18 years old. I recently graduated high school in the top 10 percent of my class with a 97 percent GPA. I was Student Council co-president and co-editor of the school newspaper, as well as a member of the National Honor Society, Student Advisory Council, National Latin Honor Society, Quill and Scroll Honorary Society for High School Journalists and the yearbook staff. I was even on the homecoming court and was named “Friendliest” in the senior class Who’s Who. As a freshman at Temple University, I’m majoring in magazine journalism. I’m just your average teenager–well, except for one thing: I’m pregnant.
Jennifer Merrill’s article is the cover story this week in Philadelphia Weekly, and surely deserves the cover. It is very much a first-person account, even moving through a narrative form through much of the article as she leads the reader through the difficult moments she lived through since finding she was pregnant last August. We find what happens when she found out she was prenant, and how both her mother and boyfriend handled it. We also find that while Jennifer Merril is pro-choice, she could not make the decision of abortion concerning the baby in her own body. To me, that’s truly pro-choice, that she chose, and had the freedom to do so.
Jennifer ends her article leaving us in the air. She’s evidently not decided whether to make an adoption plan or to raise the baby and try at the same time to continue her schooling. To that end I would just like to say that both decisions can have joyous results, and that many open adoptions will mean she has contact with her baby throughout the baby’s life. I might talk about the joys adoption has brought to my wife and myself, and how we imagine that adoption has set Jack’s birth mother’s heart to rest. I might let her knwo that an adoptive family will likely be more ready materially to care for her baby than she will, though I would continue to stress that I can’t hope to understand the mother love she is developing as she carries the child to term. But mostly I would tell Jennifer Merrill that whatever decision she makes from here on out it should be the interest of the baby and herself that she should be focused on, and not the expectations of those outside her immediate situation. But, you know, I think Jennifer Merrill truly understands all that, and I think she’s a remarkable young woman. Here are the words with which she closes the article in Philadelphia Weekly:
Regardless of what I choose, I know I’m making the decision out of love. I feel confident in saying that no matter which option I go with, the baby will have a good life. She will be given opportunities. She will have parents she can look up to. Most important, she will be loved. This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, and I can only hope that one day she will understand.
Yeah, Jennifer Merrill has her act together, and she’s going to make a fine decision in this very difficult time of life, and I’m happy she has the room to make that decision. That’s where we have all gone wrong when discussing Bristol Palin. We have not treated her as a woman, though very young, coming to grips with some of the most important and emotional decisions of her life. Oh, Rebecca Traister surely implies that those decisions are actually guided strongly by Sarah Palin herself, but even that I find to be distasteful to critique. Let’s leave Bristol Palin alone. Let’s let her choose how to live her life, and let’s also hope she has the support she needs for her choices.