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Tammy Duckworth will be the first U.S. senator to give birth while in office

The 50-year-old junior senator from Illinois is used to blazing trails.

Tammy Duckworth will be the first U.S. senator to give birth while in office

This year is shaping up to be a monumentous one for women in American politics: There are now more women serving in the United States Senate than at any other time. And, for the first time, one of them is pregnant. ?


On Tuesday, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois, announced she is expecting her second child with husband Bryan Bowlsbey in early April.

After an outpouring of congratulations, Duckworth, 49, expressed her gratitude and added she already knows motherhood gives her even more purpose in serving Americans.

“I’m hardly alone or unique as a working parent,” Duckworth says in a Twitter statement. “My daughter Abigail has only made me more committed to doing my job and standing up for hardworking families everywhere.”

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Speaking with the Chicago Sun Times, Duckworth, who will be 50 when the baby is due, said she couldn’t be more thrilled to complete her family.

“I’ve had multiple IVF cycles and a miscarriage trying to conceive again, so we’re very grateful,” she says.

As any working parent knows, this won’t be easy—but Duckworth certainly knows how to persevere: While serving with the Illinois Army National Guard in Iraq in 2004, the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting was shot down, which led to the amputation of both of her legs below the knee.

She continued to serve in the National Guard until 2014 when she stepped down to serve in the United States House of Representatives. As a congresswoman, she welcomed her first daughter, Abigail, in 2014. She made the move to the Senate after the 2016 election.

The news from Duckworth comes on the heels of another baby announcement from New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who will be the first national leader to have a baby while in office in nearly 30 years.

And to think that women in the United States weren’t even allowed to vote—let alone pursue political careers and family life—until 98 years ago.

Not only are we teaching our daughters that they really can do anything they set their hearts on, but the influence of mothers in politics makes the world a better place. Even Duckworth says she was more driven to stand up for mothers’ rights after becoming one herself.

“I have a better understanding in a way that I didn’t have,” she tells the Chicago Sun Times, explaining it became personal when “I was the one who was trying to pump breast milk in airports.”

She has since led measures to improve facilities for pumping mothers in airports, military parental leave policies and on-campus childcare options. She also sponsors or co-sponsors bills regarding affordable childcare, parental leave and maternal health issues.

This progress sure is an amazing thing to see, both as a woman of this generation and a parent of the next.

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    I think I can speak for well, basically everyone on planet earth when I say things have been a bit stressful lately. Juggling virtual school, work and the weight of worry about all the things, it's increasingly difficult to take even a moment to be grateful and positive these days. It's far easier to fall into a grump cycle, nagging my kids for all the things they didn't do (after being asked nine times), snapping at their bickering and never really acknowledging the good stuff.

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    Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

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    Minimize smoke exposure.

    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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