There have only been 10 members of Congress who have given birth while in office. And the congressional births have all come while the female lawmakers were serving in the House. Among those women who have given birth include Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Susan Molinari, Blanche Lambert Lincoln, Enid Greene Waldholtz, Linda Sanchez, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jaime Herrera Beutler and now-Senator Tammy Duckworth.
Duckworth, a retired lieutenant colonel who served a total of 23 years in the Illinois Army National Guard, delivered her firstborn daughter on Nov. 18, 2014 when she was 47 years old and a member of the House. While three of the 10 House women went on to serve in the Senate (Kirsten and Lincoln, Gillibrand and, of course, Duckworth), Duckworth will now become the country’s first sitting senator to have a baby while serving in the chamber. She’s expecting her second child in late April, just a few weeks after she turns 50.
Sen. Dick Durbin D-Ill., said in a statement, “I am proud to have her as my Illinois colleague and prouder still that she will make history by being the first U.S. Senator to have a baby while in office. I couldn’t be happier for her.”
Duckworth lost her legs and shattered her right arm when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq on Nov. 12, 2004. She later won the Illinois’ 8th Congressional District seat in November 2012 and became the second female U.S. senator elected from Illinois when she was sworn in on Jan. 3, 2017.
Duckworth has said that her mother, who lives with her, is key to helping her balance work and family life.
She’d decided to run for the Senate while on maternity leave with her firstborn, and becoming a mother influenced her legislative agenda. “As tough as it’s been to juggle motherhood and the demands of being in the House and now the Senate, it’s made me more committed to doing this job,” she told the Chicago Sun Times, noting that she now has a better understanding of infant and maternal health issues that she didn’t have before.
Of course, Duckworth is no stranger to maternal healthcare in our country. She and her husband, Bryan Bowlsbey, had tried various fertilization methods for years before undergoing a form of in vitro fertilization to deliver their daughter via a cesarean birth. She had multiple IVF cycles and a miscarriage in 2016 during her Senate campaign while trying to conceive again.
Duckworth has since authored measures to make sure major airports offer areas for breastfeeding mothers to pump milk, and so the military creates a uniform policy for giving parents time to bond with their newborns and adopted babies, and so student parents could have on-campus childcare.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.