Many of us hope for the support and approval of our families when it comes to our life choices, but few of us understand the pressure of being in the public eye. Former First Lady Barbara Bush understood how this scrutiny felt, particularly from more conservative quarters. Nonetheless, when her granddaughter and namesake Barbara Bush mentioned the idea of becoming a solo parent, the family matriarch expressed her support.
In an interview with her twin sister and Today Show host Jenna Bush-Hager, Barbara, who welcomed her daughter Cora in September, recalled the unexpected, progressive exchange she’d had with their grandmother.
“Right before Ganny passed away, we were in Houston visiting Ganny and Gampy. I’d been thinking of having a kid by myself, and I was sitting on the couch with Ganny, who was 92, and she looked at me and she said, ‘You know, you could just have a kid on your own if you want to. You should have a baby, if you want.’”
“I was shocked,” remembered Barbara. “I said, ‘Well, would you support that?’”
Her grandmother’s response?: “‘Absolutely I would support that.’”
These words, Bush explained, “felt like a gift” from her grandmother.
“It felt like permission,” she said.
While the younger Barbara ended up finding a partner and getting married, to Craig Coyne, she particularly appreciated her grandmother’s stance on the issue.
“People always asked me when I was going to get married,” Barbara told Jenna on Today.
“They never said, ‘What are you doing to address global health issues?’ or ‘How are you spending your days? What’s your purpose?’ They’d say, ‘Why aren’t you married yet?’”
Barbara remembered that Condoleezza Rice, with all of her accomplishments, told her once that she was still fielding that same question.
Her sister Jenna was supportive — although there was that one time she interviewed Prince Harry and mentioned to him that her sister was available.
When Barbara gave birth to her daughter Cora on September 21, she was six weeks before her due date and away from home. Labor began around 4:00 in the morning, she remembered, so she and her husband googled the closest hospital and drove an hour away to Portland, Maine.
“Cora came very quickly,” Barabara recalled, “and because she was early she had to be in the NICU.” When Barbara was reunited with her baby, she said, “I looked over next to her little bassinet and it was the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, named after Ganny.”
This unexpected sign, Barbara said, gave her confidence that all would be well for her daughter.
Jenna remembers racing up to Maine to meet her niece, and doing a frantic Target run for all the necessary baby items the parents hadn’t yet purchased.
Baby Cora is now a happy, healthy 6-month-old.
Barbara says that her husband is an incredible dad, who in fact is heading into solo parenting duty for the next few weeks as Barbara and Jenna, already bestselling authors, head off on a book tour to promote their latest children’s title, The Superpower Sisterhood.
“It’s about how sisterhood makes us braver than we ever thought possible,” Jenna explained on the Today segment.
The twins’ sisterly bond, said Barbara, “made us feel like we could take on more in the world.”