By Charlotte Greenfield
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter announced on Wednesday that she had delivered her first child, a baby boy, after cycling to hospital and becoming the country’s second member of the government, after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, to give birth this year.
Genter gave birth to her son on Tuesday evening at Auckland hospital, the country’s largest public hospital where Ardern delivered her daughter, Neve Te Aroha, just a few weeks earlier.
“My partner Peter and I are delighted to welcome the new addition to our family,” Genter said in an emailed statement. “I want to thank the support I have had from my midwives, and our public health system.” The baby’s name has not been released yet.
Genter, 38, announced in February that she was pregnant, following Ardern’s historic pregnancy announcement a month earlier.
Having two members of the government pregnant was embraced by many as a symbol of progress for leadership roles and Ardern was the world’s first elected leader since Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto’s in 1990 to give birth while in office.
“Congratulations @JulieAnneGenter! So pleased to hear of the safe arrival of the newest addition to the parliamentary play group,” Arden said on Twitter.
Parliamentary babies are now allowed to accompany their parents into the debating chamber for cuddles and even swim in Parliament’s pool thanks to a push by the Speaker to make the legislature more friendly to new mothers.
Such steps aim to help boost diversity in parliament, where female representations has lingered below half at 38 percent, and accommodate a baby boom since last September’s election, when two women Labour members with infants also took up their seats.
Genter will take three months’ leave from her job, which also includes associate transport and associate health minister portfolios, and return to work in mid-November.
She had garnered praise from supporters of her progressive Green Party for cycling to hospital to receive a medical inducement on Sunday.
“Beautiful Sunday morning for a bike ride, to the hospital, for an induction to finally have this baby,” Genter said on Instagram alongside photos of her riding her bike at 42 weeks pregnant, accompanied by the hashtagged phrase ‘#bicyclesarethebest’.
The American-born politician is a dual citizen of the United States and New Zealand, having emigrated to the Pacific nation in 2006.
Genter cycled throughout her pregnancy and told Fairfax media in June she had already bought an attachable cycling buggy for the baby.
Genter’s Green Party shares a support agreement in Parliament with Ardern’s Labour and its hallmark policies include boosting cycling and the use of public transport.
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Sandra Maler)