This article incorrectly identified a mother and daughter who were in the maternity ward at Mat-Su Regional Medical Center at the same time Sarah Palin was there delivering her baby, Trig. The mother is Jennifer Krueger of Wasilla, Alaska, who gave birth to daughter Haylee Davison.
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Palin's Family Has Always Held a Place in Her Politics
Said a Bristol Bay politician who asked not to be named: "He's someone you could call and get the lowdown."
The children were always in the picture -- Piper close by at a native first-fish ceremony, Trig snuggled in a baby pouch as the governor posed with wounded vets, Bristol confessing to spending $30 on a leg waxing while an Alaska magazine writer took down the exchange: "You have razors," her mother said.
The family still lives in Wasilla most of the time, in an airy wood-frame house on the shore of Lake Lucille, upscale by Alaskan standards. The governor's mansion in Juneau, the state capital, is home only when the legislature is in session, and even then to only some of the family. The Palins enrolled the two youngest girls in Juneau schools, but Bristol went mid-school-year to live with her aunt in Anchorage, finishing at the city's West High School.
All of this complicated the Palins' child care matrix. In Wasilla the couple relied heavily on Sarah's parents, retired teachers whose two-story log home is a few miles away, a mound of moose antlers in the yard. Chuck and Sally Heath, who moved to Alaska when Sarah was 2 months old, routinely took the kids when Todd was on the Slope and Sarah politicking. Sarah's sisters Molly and Heather pitched in as well.
"The Palins and the Heaths operate as one unit," said Karen Rhoades, a family friend in Wasilla. "They are not individuals."
Todd Palin works less on the Slope lately and more with the governor. She works most often out of an office in Anchorage, sometimes bringing in one of the children.
In Alaska, they no longer need introduction. Track, 19, was named after the course of the sockeye salmon the family fishes off Dillingham. As his mother frequently mentions on the campaign trail, he joined the Army in 2007 on the anniversary of Sept. 11.
Bristol, 17, was a reference point for environmental concerns long before she became an icon for the antiabortion movement. When reporters asked Palin about a proposed mine that might imperil the world's largest salmon fishery, she signaled her sensitivity to the matter by pointing out, "We named one of our children after Bristol Bay."
She is often photographed with 14-year-old Willow -- like the state bird, the willow ptarmigan, and a nearby town -- and Piper, 7, who shares a name with the bush plane parked at the dock outside the family's house.
"Wonderful family," said Ben Harrell, who pours the governor her skinny white chocolate latte at the Mocha Moose in Wasilla. "Just cool. Even-flow type of personalities."
The April birth of Trig, Norse for "brave victory," turned out to be a powerful credential for the national Republican base, delighted that Palin delivered a child who tests foretold had Down syndrome.
But Palin's abrupt elevation to a presidential ticket also demonstrated the challenges of highlighting family in public life. On Monday the McCain campaign announced that Bristol was five months pregnant by boyfriend Levi Johnston, a thin secret in Wasilla.