New Zealand PM Is Second Leader in History to Give Birth While in Office

And she’s taking parental leave.
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By Laurie Ulster, Contributing Writer
Published June 22, 2018
prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern gives birth
Image: Phil Walter / Getty Images

Jacinda Ardern made history on Thursday when she became the first world leader in almost 30 years to have a baby while in office and the second in modern memory, following in the footsteps of Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who gave birth in 1990.

Ardern has already hit some historic milestones: She became New Zealand’s youngest prime minister in more than 150 years when she won last year’s election at age 37. She also made headlines when she told a radio show host that asking a woman in a professional context if she was planning on getting pregnant was unacceptable.

Six days before she took office, she found out she was expecting, a welcome surprise for her and her partner, Clarke Gayford. Now that her daughter has arrived (name TBD), Ardern is taking six weeks of parental leave, handing power over to the deputy prime minister in her absence.

She’s not the only woman in politics to prove you can juggle work and new mom duties. Two years ago, Icelandic Member of Parliament Unnur Brá Konráðsdóttir nursed her daughter from the podium while defending her vote. Last year, Australian senator Larissa Waters’ 3-month-old daughter Alia Joy became the first baby to be breastfed in Australia’s parliament, and just this week Canadian Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould was seen breastfeeding her baby on camera while answering a question during a Q&A session. Her colleagues have taken turns holding her son Oliver while she addresses the House of Commons—in fact, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was one of the first to swoop in and hold baby boy when Gould first returned to work.

As any breastfeeding mom knows, multitasking is hardly unusual, but it’s refreshing to see it in action in the political sphere. Ardern is being hailed as an inspiration for a young generation of New Zealanders, proving by example that women can campaign, negotiate and work as hard as anyone else while pregnant—and raise a baby and lead a country at the same time.

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