--- by Lee Tompkins, BSN
"Captive Alien Held in Area 51 by U.S. Military!"
"Elvis Is Alive!"
"U.S. Government Fakes Moon Landings!"
"Sarah Palin Fakes Pregnancy, Claims Daughter's Child as Her Own!"
All very sexy headlines and all conspiracy theories that some continue to believe to this day. Are any of them true? Who knows? What is more interesting is how and why such claims are picked up and seized by a segment of the American public. The first three are ones that I can't really comment on but the Sarah Palin one I can, having watched the story closely from the time the Anchorage Daily News reported the curious story of Trig Palin's birth last April, and having the requisite background in the medical field as a labor and delivery nurse as well as the necessary swiftness of foot and mind to avoid stepping in any BS in the field.
To some extent these stories are all crazes that took hold because people wanted to believe them. The world has been enchanted with the idea of space aliens all the way from a love affair with H.G. Wells to the Great Gazoo. The idea of E.T. being held captive in Roswell was one that our Star Trek-Star Wars-Lost in Space generation of baby boomers would latch onto with all the fierceness of a lassoed Bantha.
Everybody loves Elvis. Who wouldn't want to see him alive and performing at the Sands in Vegas?
The faked Apollo moon landing theory rocketed during a time in which Americans had a high degree of distrust in the government, who were either trying to draft you to go fight a war in a rice paddy or up to their usual dirty tricks breaking into the Watergate hotel. Would it really be a stretch that such a government would totally fabricate their proudest, most historic achievement?
Which bridges us to the case of Sarah Palin.
Let me say categorically that I think the widely disseminated rumor that Sarah Palin is not the mother of her child Trig is totally false, although I know many well-informed and well-educated people who believe otherwise, and I certainly understand their theory.
I'm going to spend some time discussing the reasons why I think the Palin faked pregnancy story is not true, but first I think it is of interest to comment on why this story has really caught hold of the imagination of many.
Sarah Palin, after being thrust into the national consciousness as a Hail-Mary VP pass by McCain and the Republican Party, gave disastrous interviews with Charlie and Katie, which allowed the public begin to see the real unscripted Palin. All the while Troopergate was coming to head in Alaska, as well as other ethical issues dug up by a curious national news media. And a general consensus was formed about Sarah Palin by the public, and that consensus, held by all but her most ardent supporters, was that they disliked her. They saw her as phony, hypocritical and frightfully unprepared to be anywhere near the White House. She ended up with the highest negativity rating ever for any VP candidate, and an all-you-can-eat late night comedy feast.
So, the public loved Elvis and wanted to see him alive and there was a hopeful expectation that maybe he was still. And the general public disliked Sarah Palin and when the bizarre circumstances of the birth of her child Trig became generally known, the public wanted to believe that she was capable of faking a pregnancy in order to bolster her standing as a "family values" candidate by avoiding the baggage of a daughter who was about to become an unwed teenage mother. Avoiding that didn't quite work out for Palin as it turned out, but that didn't stop a vocal minority of conspiracy theorists to believe Palin capable of such chicanery earlier. The public wanted to believe the worst of Sarah Palin.
Which is kind of funny in a sad way when you think about it, because what the evidence very strongly suggests is that Palin was guilty of recklessly endangering the life of her unborn child, which to me is far worse than faking a pregnancy, to protect her political ambition and perhaps the reputation of her daughter. It's just not as sexy of a story, not one the public could latch onto with such fervor. Discussing ruptured membranes ain't exactly something to talk about at the dinner table. And since "life imitates art more than art imitates life" it's highly doubtful the Desperate Housewives' writers will be opening next season with one of the wives flying transcontinentally with preterm premature rupture of membranes.
The public couldn't understand why anyone would do anything other than take the greatest of care and every absolute precaution with the health of a special needs child, whose parent should have been their greatest advocate and protector.
The faked pregnancy theory was easier to believe. And so it was born.
But with birth eventually comes death, and so the conspiracy that was born should now be allowed to die so that the real issue can come to light: the questionable judgment of Sarah Palin, and the local news media's inadequate coverage which put the public it serves at risk.
A couple of Google searches and it's not difficult to figure out that the likelihood of a Down's pregnancy in a 44-year old woman is 25 times greater than that of a teenager. Of course, overall more Down's babies are born in the younger age groups but that is reflective of the greater numbers of pregnancies occurring in younger women than older women. That statistic alone should be convincing enough, but it is probably not.
Certainly looks can be deceiving, but Palin looked pregnant, as I noticed and questioned whether she was pregnant after seeing a photo of her on the ADN website several days before she announced she was expecting. And after delivery she appeared to carry the appropriate postpartum weight you would expect to see. As mothers we've all been there.
The argument against a conspiracy that bothers me most personally is this: the very idea that doctors or nurses would involve themselves willingly in a cover-up is absurd, and quite frankly, insulting. If while working I was asked to aid and abet an unethical activity I would have promptly turned in my badge and walked out. Reviewing this supposed scenario over and over I just don't see how this could have happened at any reputable medical facility.
If you are one that still believes Elvis is alive then it is doubtful I've convinced you that Palin is Trig's mom. I agree, it would be easy for Palin to refute the claim by providing Trig's birth certificate and/or photos of her immediately after delivery, looking tired and disheveled, just as I did, holding her precious new gift. Why she has yet to do so I haven't a clue. Does she enjoy the attention this controversy receives? I can't answer that. All I do know is that if someone questioned whether one of my kids was my own it would take me all of five minutes to prove it.
In a strange way I'd almost rather be writing about a faked pregnancy than what really happened and was reported on in the April 22nd issue of the ADN by reporter Lisa Demer as well as a KTUU evening news cast that interviewed Palin's father, Chuck Heath. Contrary to Demer's page A-7 headline, Palin did put Trig at risk by wanting an Alaska birth.
During that KTUU interview Health proclaimed his daughter's water broke in Texas but that she managed to avoid delivery until she returned to Alaska. To a labor and delivery nurse's ears, this was the equivalent of nails running down a chalkboard.
"She did what?? Is this really true, if so, what the hell was she thinking?? Why did her doctor allow her to do this??"
It wasn't until Demer's article appeared a couple of days later that some of my questions were answered, but were answered in such a manner that left me with more questions: questions of Palin's judgment. If you can't make good choices and decisions during the most critical time of one's life, can you or should you be trusted to make decisions at less critical times or for others??
o Palin chose to fly to Texas for a Governor's conference at 35 weeks of pregnancy. Why she chose to go instead of sending a surrogate is unknown and unreported. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists late pregnancy air travel poses an increased risk of preterm labor and other complications such as premature rupture of membranes (leaking amniotic fluid). And the Governor, having already known Trig was a Down syndrome child, knew this was a higher than average risk pregnancy, since Down's children often have additional congenital problems such as cardiac issues.
o Palin's water broke at 4:00 am Texas time and at that time was having contractions that were "different" than contractions she had previously, she informed her Alaska family physician Dr. Cathy Baldwin-Johnson. Palin reportedly told her physician she would be staying to deliver a luncheon address, one she was "determined to give."
The exact nature of any advice given by Dr. Baldwin-Johnson to Palin in these conversations is unclear and unreported. The very limited reporting here includes that Palin was having contractions, but "did not ask for a medical OK to fly." Whether she was advised to seek medical care with one of the hundreds of OB doctors and several well-equipped OB facilities in Dallas is unreported. Whether the risks of traveling with an undiagnosed complication of pregnancy in a high risk situation were discussed with Palin is unreported. Whether advice was given that it was absolutely safe to travel back or that the doctor advised her to return without a hands-on medical evaluation is unreported.
Any doctor who was at all prudent would have insisted that Palin be evaluated hands-on in Dallas, with appropriate fetal monitoring and verification of membrane status. Any mother who was at all prudent and interested in doing everything she could to protect the life of her unborn child would follow that advice and would have asked her doctor whether it was safe to fly, i.e. asked for a medical OK to fly. What would be the point of any conversations between Palin and her doctor if these incredibly important issues weren't asked and addressed? Physicians cannot diagnose over the phone. (Hopefully Palin didn't call to discuss the weather). We do know that if advice to be seen locally was given or that the risks of traveling long distances by air were discussed with the Governor, that advice and those risks were ignored by Palin.
The reason Palin made this decision is unclear. Todd Palin is quoted as saying "You can't have a fish picker from Texas", indicating that he found the possibility of Trig being born in Texas distasteful. Whether Todd Palin coerced the Governor to avoid medical care in Texas and return to Alaska is uncertain and unreported. What is true is that any woman presenting to an OB facility in Texas with ruptured membranes would not have been allowed to travel by air and would have required Palin to sign out Against Medical Advice (AMA) had she expressed an intent in flying back to Alaska to deliver. An AMA for a government leader would look very bad.
o Having given her speech, Palin caught an earlier flight out of Dallas, a fact previously unreported. At the airport she did not inform the flight personnel that she was pregnant and was suffering a complication of pregnancy, thereby putting the entire flight at risk for diversion should further problems or delivery become eminent. Airliners are woefully inadequately prepared for medical emergencies and lack any proper equipment necessary to resuscitate a newborn. Even a 35-week fetus may have immature lung development.
o Upon arrival to Alaska 11 hours later, she and her husband drove to Matsu-Regional Hospital in Palmer, a drive that usually takes at least an hour, rather than going to a larger facility in Anchorage, which was no more than 15 minutes from the airport and the only facility in the state with a Level III NICU. The reason for that is unknown and unreported. It is reported that the delivery had to be induced at Mat-Su Regional and the baby was delivered at 6:30 a.m.
Many who believe in the conspiracy theory cannot understand how a multiparous woman could manage to fly with preterm premature rupture of membranes for such an extended period of time without delivering. I wouldn't have made it with my rapid 2nd labor, so I can't answer that question. It simply isn't something I would have ever contemplated.
The notion that Palin had to be induced therefore she wasn't really is labor is grossly misunderstood by the general public. Inductions are NEVER done on a preterm pregnancy unless there is a known complication or problem with the fetus. If the governor had arrived at the hospital with ruptured membranes but without other complications, more than likely her family physician would have waited until the morning to begin induction, a usual routine at busy OB facilities. The fact that the governor's induction began in the middle of the night is strongly indicative that significant problems were occurring that warranted immediate attention, problems such as fetal distress or infection due to the extended time period of ruptured membranes.
: Why Governor Palin chose to give a speech over seeking appropriate care for her unborn child is known only to Governor Palin, but her actions speak volumes to those of us listening, and listening carefully.
She is incredibly fortunate that the outcome was ultimately positive, but someone else may not be so lucky, hence the failure of the local news media to do it's job to properly report and to warn others that Governor Palin's choices were not the wisest.
So why didn't they? A few possible answers:
1. Sensitivity to the governor during a difficult time giving birth to a baby that will require life-long intensive therapy if it is to achieve an IQ score higher than the Down's average of 40. That's fair enough.
2. Governor Palin sells newspapers to a segment of the population the news paper is targeting: females. We all know we shouldn't bite the hand that feeds us.
3. Popularity. Governor Palin's approval ratings were high at the time and the news paper supported the governor's position on various political issues such as increased oil taxation, etc.
Sarah Palin was lucky, Sarah Smith or Sarah Jones may not be. The ADN failed in it's obligation to the public it serves to fully inform and educate on potential public health and safety issues. The accolades the governor received for being a "tough Alaskan woman" may prove deadly for someone imitating her actions. Popularity trumped common sense and good sound journalism. Regardless of the sensitivity issue the ADN, even at a later date, should have yet failed to inform the public that the governor's actions were wrong, and dangerous.
Because of this failure I believe the ADN is partially culpable for this whole conspiracy theory. If they had done their job right to begin with, the details of the birth would have been more clear and this nonsense about faked pregnancy would have been supplanted by the clear realization that Palin risked the life of her unborn child, took absolutely no prudent precautions for reasons one cannot even imagine, all to avoid having a fish picker born in Texas.