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.” 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.