JUNEAU -- Gov. Sarah Palin shocked and awed just about everybody around the Capitol on Wednesday when she announced she's expecting her fifth child.
The governor, who recently turned 44, told a handful of reporters as she was leaving work to expect a new member of the first family, then headed to a reception at the Baranof Hotel to feast on king crab.
Palin said she's already about seven months along, with the baby due to arrive in mid-May.
That the pregnancy is so advanced astonished all who heard the news. The governor, a runner who's always been trim, simply doesn't look pregnant.
Even close members of her staff said they only learned this week their boss was expecting.
"I thought it was becoming obvious," Palin said. "You know, clothes getting snugger and snugger."
But people just couldn't believe the news.
"Really? No!" said Bethel state Rep. Mary Nelson, who is close to giving birth herself.
"It's wonderful. She's very well-disguised," said Senate President Lyda Green, a mother of three who has sometimes sparred with Palin politically. "When I was five months pregnant, there was absolutely no question that I was with child."
Having a baby as governor has happened elsewhere, but it's rare. The former acting governor of Massachusetts, Jane Swift, in 2001 was the first governor in office to give birth when she delivered twin girls.
Palin beamed as lawmakers, Cabinet members and others came by to congratulate her at the Baranof reception, a legislative event Kodiak officials sponsor annually.
Her husband, Todd, was there holding the couple's sleepy 6-year-old daughter Piper in his arms.
Palin said she's not aiming to take any time off from her job as governor, assuming all goes well with the pregnancy. She said when she had Piper -- Palin was mayor of Wasilla at the time -- the baby was born on a Monday and she returned to the office on Tuesday.
"I've always been a believer that God's not going to give us anything that we cannot handle," Palin said.
Todd Palin, a BP oil field worker currently on leave from his job, said he's thrilled to be headed toward five-time fatherhood.
"I'm really excited," he said. "Every child you get from God. The more the merrier."
Aside from Piper, the Palins have three other children: Track, 18, serving in the U.S. Army at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks; Bristol, 17, a high school junior; and Willow, 13.
Palin, a Republican, was elected as Alaska's first female governor in 2006 and took office in December of that year.
She's kept a hectic schedule in recent days, traveling last week to the National Governors Association conference in Washington, D.C., followed by a trip to Los Angeles on Monday for a Newsweek magazine conference also featuring Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano. The magazine profiled the two in its Oct. 15 "Women & Power" issue.
With Palin riding extraordinarily high popularity ratings, pundits have mentioned her as a potential vice presidential candidate. But she said Wednesday night she's "not pursuing or perpetuating it," adding, "I have no desire to leave my job at all as governor."
Palin said she decided to reveal the pregnancy after she felt the signs were giving her away, like doing less running this winter and being "ravenously hungry."
She's known as a fashion plate, but said she hasn't been dressing differently to cover her barely perceptible bulge.
Palin noted another Alaska governor welcomed a new baby to his family while in office -- Mike Stepovich, who served as territorial governor in the late 1950s.
Having kids and serving as governor are entirely compatible, she said.
"To any critics who say a woman can't think and work and carry a baby at the same time, I'd just like to escort that Neanderthal back to the cave," Palin said.
Then the expectant governor turned to greet more well-wishers.
The Palin baby news has tongues wagging across the blogosphere about women in powerful positions getting pregnant. Do they a right to? Is it anybody's business? Are you a woman who balanced a demanding job with a baby? Reporter Julia O'Malley wants to hear from you. Call her 257-4591 or e-mail her at email@example.com
Find Wesley Loy online at adn.com/contact/wloy or call him in Juneau at 1-907-586-1531.