Sarah Palin was devastated and shocked when she learned that the baby she was carrying had Down syndrome, PEOPLE reports in its latest cover story, about the freshly minted Republican vice-presidential candidate.
Palin, who was then 43 and 13 weeks pregnant , is a staunch opponent of abortion. She kept the news to herself until husband Todd returned from a business trip three days later. “The good news is we have a boy,” she tearfully told him. “But we have a challenge.”
Todd’s response, she tells PEOPLE: “Awesome! I’m getting another boy.”
Initially Palin hid her pregnancy – and her pain – from both the public and her children, son Track, now 19, and daughters Bristol, 17, Willow, 14, and Piper, 7.
“Not knowing in my own heart if I was going to be ready to embrace a child with special needs,” she reveals, “I couldn’t talk about it.”
On April 18, 2008, Palin gave birth to 6-lb., 2-oz. Trig, five weeks early. As Todd and their three daughters gathered around the bedside (Track, an Army private, listened in by phone from his base in Fairbanks), Willow said of the new arrival, “He looks like he has Down syndrome.”
Palin, who says her own qualms were laid to rest “the minute [Trig] was born,” felt a lump in her throat. “If he does, you know you will still love him, Willow. It’ll be okay.”
Willow pressed: “But why didn’t you tell us?”
Palin admitted she didn’t know how to break the news. “I was a little shocked,” says Willow “but I don’t care – he’s my brother and I love him.”
For the complete story on Sarah Palin – including how her family deals with Trig’s condition, and how they are embracing Bristol’s pregnancy – pick up this week’s PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday