New Zealand prime minister gives birth to baby girl

Jacinda Ardern is first world leader in almost three decades to give birth while in office

Jacinda Ardern is one of the few elected leaders to hold office while pregnant. File photograph: Marty Ville/AFP/Getty Images

Jacinda Ardern is one of the few elected leaders to hold office while pregnant. File photograph: Marty Ville/AFP/Getty Images

 

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand gave birth to her first child, a girl, on Thursday, making her the first world leader in almost three decades to give birth while in office. Ms Ardern, who announced the birth on social media, did not say whether a name had been chosen yet.

Ms Ardern (37), whose youth and surprise rise to power have made her a global celebrity, delivered her baby at the country’s largest public hospital, in Auckland. Once she entered the hospital Thursday, deputy prime minister Winston Peters officially assumed the role of acting prime minister.

“Welcome to our village wee one,” Ms Ardern posted on Instagram. “Feeling very lucky to have a healthy baby girl that arrived at 4.45pm weighing 3.31kg (7.3lb),” she wrote. “Thank you so much for your best wishes and your kindness.”

Ms Ardern will take six weeks of parental leave before returning to work, at which point her partner Clarke Gayford, the host of a television show about fishing, will become a stay-at-home parent.

Ms Ardern announced her pregnancy in January, just three months after a stunning upset victory that propelled her to the top of the centre-left Labour Party and into the prime minister’s office in October. Her pregnancy announcement prompted a national conversation about working mothers, and an international reckoning about the rarity of pregnant women in the world’s corridors of power.

‘Unacceptable’

In one interview before her election, Ms Ardern told a reporter it was “unacceptable” to ask women if motherhood would interfere with their ability to succeed in the workplace.

The last leader to deliver a baby while in office was the late Benazir Bhutto, then prime minister of Pakistan, who gave birth to her second child, a daughter, in 1990. That daughter, Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari, congratulated Ms Ardern on Twitter on Thursday.

In the 28 years since Ms Zardari’s birth, several women earned their way into their country’s executive mansions and offices, but none spent time in the delivery room while in power.

While news reports at the time of Bhutto’s delivery said Pakistanis sang and danced in the streets with joy, she also faced criticism for having a second child. Opposition leaders said that “the country would be leaderless while she was hospitalized,”

Bhutto, who temporarily transferred power to her mother, lawmaker Nusrat Bhutto, while in labour, announced that she was “back on the job” one day after her delivery.

Years after serving a second term as Pakistan’s prime minister, Bhutto was assassinated in 2007.

Symbolism

Congratulations poured in from New Zealanders, some of whom said they were proud of what they saw as a symbolically important moment. “From one working Kiwi mum thank you for showing me I don’t have to be treated as less than anymore,” one Twitter user said.

Ms Ardern’s popularity in New Zealand is due in part to her down-to-earth image. A spokeswoman for the prime minister said on Thursday that Mr Gayford had driven Ms Ardern to the hospital in the couple’s own car.

The prime minister had been given a due date of June 17th, and she only stopped flying to and from New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, on June 11th. On advice from her doctors, she then worked from her home in Auckland until the day before she went into labour.

Helen Clark, one of two other women who have been New Zealand’s prime minister, said on Thursday in an email that the nation had taken Ms Ardern’s pregnancy in its stride. “This is a sign of our maturity as a country and its acceptance that combining career and family is a choice which women are free to make,” said Ms Clark, who has been a mentor to Ardern.

Ms Clark, who left office in 2008, added that Mr Gayford should be celebrated as “a modern man, who is happy to be the full time parent of a young child.”

“Attitudes have changed a lot on these issues since I entered New Zealand politics, and that’s a good thing,” she said. – New York Times