March 02, 2009 12:00 PM

Hello, handsome!” Bristol Palin grins as she greets her 2-month-old son Tripp, who has just come in from the brisk outdoors with grandma Sarah Palin. Handing the blue bundle to his mom, the Alaska governor says, “This little baby is very lucky to have her as a mama. He’s going to be just fine.”

In her first TV interview since the December birth of Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston (dad is Bristol’s high school sweetheart Levi Johnston) Bristol displayed a similar confidence in her parenting ability. Though she told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren that being a mom is “a load of work,” the high school senior also said, “It’s so rewarding.”

But she made clear that this surprising appearance (Bristol has rarely been seen since September’s Republican convention) was not to celebrate early motherhood but to help prevent it. “I’m not the first person that it’s happened to, and I’m not going to be the last,” she acknowledged. But, she noted, “it’s not, like, a situation that you want to strive for.” Later she added, “Kids should just wait. I don’t know; it’s not glamorous at all.”

Bristol said that breaking the news to her parents was “harder than labor.” After school ended for the year, she gathered Levi, a friend, and her parents on the couch. “I couldn’t even say it,” she recalled … “Finally my best friend just, like, blurted it out.” Sarah Palin felt “absolute shock,” she told Van Susteren. Bristol also cleared up rumors that her mother insisted she give birth: “Doesn’t matter what my mom’s views are on it. It was my decision.”

Now that he’s here, taking care of Tripp is a family affair. As Bristol continues to study for her diploma, everyone pitches in, from her maternal grandmother, Sally Heath, to sister Piper, 7 (“She’s grabbing diapers and making bottles,” said Bristol). Fiancé Levi Johnston, an electrical apprentice, is “a really hands-on dad,” said Bristol. “He’s just in love with him as much as I am.” If she would change anything, she said it would be that she could have gotten an education and started a career first. Even so, Tripp, she said, “brings so much joy. I don’t regret it at all.”

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