Story updated April 9, 2018 after it was announced Senator Duckworth gave birth to a baby girl.
Senator Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, is the first woman in American history to have a baby while serving in the U.S. Senate.
"I can’t believe it’s 2018 and we’re finally just now breaking this barrier,” Sen. Duckworth said. “We need more women in the Senate."
Duckworth is no stranger to breaking the mold. The decorated Iraq war veteran lost both her legs in combat, but she says that didn’t stop her from finding new ways to serve her country, or her family. She says the road to parenthood involved heartache.
“It was hard and for us,” Sen. Duckworth said. “There were tears and frustrations all along the way”
Duckworth and her husband underwent multiple IVF treatments but never gave up.
“We were always committed to having a child and if the IVF had not worked, we would have adopted a child,” Duckworth said.
Duckworth had her first baby, Abigail, while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now, the Senator is having another little girl, just weeks after turning 50.
“It’s been incredibly rewarding and I think it makes me a better lawmaker,” Duckworth said.
Duckworth says the joy of having a baby put her face-to-face with the other barriers many new moms face. As a mom on-the-go, she found airports and many other places were not set up very well for nursing. In most cases, she faced two flawed options.
“My two choices in most places were either the handicapped stall of the toilet - the public toilet - which is nowhere near sanitary, or next to where everybody else was charging their cell phones because I could plug my breast pump in there, and no one wants to do that,” Duckworth said.
Duckworth says that eye-opening experience inspired her to push for a bill at the federal level that would require more airports to have lactation rooms. Her bill would allow women to access private, clean spaces for nursing, equipped with a chair, table and electrical outlet.
“I realized that there was a need there that was not being met,” Duckworth explained.
Duckworth is also urging Congress to move forward with existing bills that would increase paid family leave.
“The worker would pay $2.50 per week, and the employer would match that, and that would actually provide insurance so that you could take up to 12 weeks of paid leave to be with a loved one who has a medical condition or to become a parent,” Duckworth said.
The Senator plans to take about 12 weeks to spend at home with the baby.
But she plans to continue to work from home and travel back to Washington D.C. if big votes come up. Duckworth gave birth to a baby girl on Monday, April 9, 2018.