When New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern went into labor at 5:50 a.m. local time on Thursday, she handed off her duties to the country’s deputy prime minister, Winston Peters.
By 4:45 p.m., Ardern gave birth to her first child: a baby girl. After a six-week maternity leave, she plans to return to her job. Her partner, Clarke Gayford, will be their daughter’s full-time caregiver.
Ardern, 37, is the second elected world leader in modern times to have a child while in office. She is also the first world leader to go on maternity leave while in office.
The only other elected head of government known to have given birth while in office was Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto, who had a child while she was prime minister in 1990. Bhutto did not take maternity leave.
The Pakistani leader was assassinated in December 2007. Fittingly, Ardern’s daughter will share a birthday with Bhutto, who would have turned 65 on June 21.
“Welcome to our village wee one,” Ardern wrote on Instagram. “Feeling very lucky to have a healthy baby girl.”
Ardern, who in October became New Zealand’s youngest prime minister in more than a century, drew international attention in January when she announced she was pregnant with her first child. She became a symbol for working mothers everywhere, her story serving as a reminder that women should not have to choose between motherhood and a position of leadership.
New Zealanders have been waiting in excitement for the arrival of the baby, who was due on Sunday. One group started a campaign, #KnitForJacinda, to knit baby clothes for hospitals and women’s shelters in celebration of Ardern’s news.
From the moment Ardern’s office announced she was in the hospital, New Zealand media outlets dispatched reporters to the scene and kicked off live blogs documenting the day. (One live blog has actually been up and running since Sunday.) The hashtag #babywatch spread on Twitter. The prime minister’s office brought food for reporters waiting at the hospital.
Ardern’s pregnancy was unexpected, she said in January. She and Gayford, who hosts a television show about fishing, had “been clear we wanted to be parents but had been told we would need help for that to happen.” Once she became prime minister, she put those plans on hold. Then came the surprise.
The couple will now be “joining the many parents out there who wear two hats,” she wrote. “I’ll be Prime Minister AND a mum, and Clarke will be ‘first man of fishing’ and stay at home dad.”