Never in America's history has a sitting U.S. senator given birth. That's about to change, however, as Sen. Tammy Duckworth is due to have her second child in late April. Although several female lawmakers have given birth while serving in Congress — including now-Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand — they all did so while serving in the House of Representatives, not the Senate.
Duckworth, who had her first child at the age of 46, revealed her pregnancy to the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday, and said that it was a "struggle" to conceive for the second time. "I’ve had multiple IVF cycles and a miscarriage trying to conceive again, so we’re very grateful,” said Duckworth, a retired lieutenant colonel who served in the Illinois National Guard for 23 years. She added that this miscarriage occurred during her 2016 campaign for the Senate.
Thankfully, despite these challenges, Duckworth told the Sun-Times that she feels "great" six months into her most recent pregnancy.
Duckworth met her husband, Bryan Bowlsbey, at George Washington University when they were both in ROTC, according to the Sun-Times. The two tied the knot in 1992, and Duckworth gave birth to their first daughter, Abigail O’kalani Bowlsbey, via cesarean section in 2014.
“I am proud to have [Duckworth] 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," Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin said in a statement. "I couldn’t be happier for her.”
Since she gave birth to Abigail, Duckworth has authored several bills relating to motherhood and parents' rights. She introduced legislation in 2015 that would require airports of a certain size to have facilities for mothers to pump breast milk, and in 2016, she co-sponsored a bill to expand on-campus childcare for student parents. Duckworth again addressed the topic of airport lactation facilities in a September op-ed for Cosmopolitan.
"As a nursing mother, I had to stick to a feeding and expressing schedule, including when I was at the airport, but I quickly realized that finding a clean, accessible, private space was stressful and inordinately difficult," Duckworth wrote. "While I was comfortable breastfeeding my daughter in public, I did not want to express next to strangers using the same outlets to recharge their electronic devices. At many airports, I was redirected to a bathroom, forced to pump in a bathroom stall."
Although Duckworth again introduced the airport breastfeeding legislation once she became a Senator, Republican leadership has not yet scheduled it for a vote.
In addition to her advocacy for mothers, Duckworth, who received a Purple Heart and lost both of her legs during her time in the military, recently made headlines for calling President Trump a "draft dodger" in a Senate floor speech about the government shutdown.
"I spent my entire adult life looking out for the well-being, the training, the equipping of the troops for whom I was responsible,” she said on Saturday. “Sadly, this is something the current occupant of the Oval Office does not seem to care to do — and I will not be lectured about what our military needs by a five-deferment draft dodger.” Trump, who did receive five draft deferments, had accused Congressional Democrats of "holding our military hostage" during the shutdown.
According to the House of Representatives' official website, 10 lawmakers, including Duckworth, have given birth while serving in Congress. All of them were House members at the time, although two — Gillibrand and Blanche Lincoln — were later elected to the Senate. Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers had three children while serving in Congress, more than any other lawmaker.