Asia Pacific / Politics

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern stays in hospital for second night with ‘Prime Miniature’ baby

AFP-JIJI, AP

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will spend a second night in hospital with her newborn daughter, her office said Friday.

Ardern and her partner, Clarke Gayford, have been swamped with congratulatory messages from around the globe, including a private email from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

But she is now facing the realities of motherhood — plans for a public appearance with her baby have been canceled twice.

A spokesman for her office said, “Everyone is doing well if not a bit tired” after Ardern spent much of her first night as a mother feeding the newborn.

“The nurses described the baby as ‘very alert and one hungry baby,’ ” the spokesman added.

Ardern is only the second world leader to give birth while in office, following Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, whose daughter Bakhtawar was born in 1990. The baby girl shares the same birth date as Bhutto.

Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari tweeted “congratulations” and shared a link to a news story on how the Pakistani leader showed it was possible to be a mother and a prime minister.

The baby arrived Thursday afternoon, weighing 3.3 kilograms (7.3 pounds). Ardern has yet to announce the name of the child.

“Welcome to our village wee one,” Ardern, 37, wrote on Instagram in announcing the birth. “Thank you so much for your best wishes and your kindness. We’re all doing really well thanks to the wonderful team at Auckland City Hospital.”

It is the first child for Ardern, 37, and 40-year-old Gayford, a television fishing personality who will become a stay-at-home dad when she returns to work after six weeks of maternity leave.

Among the messages and parenting tips was sound advice from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “Welcome to the wonderful world of parenting @jacindaardern & Clarke. Pro tip, Jacinda: Briefing notes make excellent bedtime stories,” Trudeau tweeted.

The birth has dominated headlines, with New Zealand opposition leader Simon Bridges noting — while passing on his best wishes — that he was now in a “complete news vacuum.”

New Zealand media have dissected every aspect of the birth with headlines ranging from “First Baby and politics: What the PM will want to avoid,” to “Revealed. Where PM’s first baby’s hat, blanket came from” and “Birth a ‘modern family’ story.”

As well-wishes flooded social media, the hashtag #PrimeMiniature flourished. “The term Prime Miniature is just too perfect. please can we call her nothing else?” a person called Nic tweeted.

“Dear world, NZ really isn’t into all this ‘#FirstFamily’ elitist nonsense. Instead, all 4.7 million of us are now honorary aunts and uncles to the new #PrimeMiniature. It’s the #kiwi way. It’s just how we roll,” added 2Covet.

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark believed Ardern and Gayford had sent a significant message to the world, particularly with Gayford being a stay-at-home dad.

She said attitudes had changed since she had entered politics, and that was a good thing. “For New Zealand, these events and the way our country has greeted them will be seen as inspirational by all who advocate for gender equality and women’s empowerment,” Clark said in a statement.

“I think this is why it’s caught the imagination, in New Zealand, and globally,” Clark said. “It’s inspirational for younger women and men. … It’s a story for men and women, this story; a very human story.”

Jennifer Curtin, a professor of politics at the University of Auckland, said there was symbolic importance in Ardern giving birth, in that it showed political parties around the world that it was fine to have younger women as candidates.

She said women often tended to be older when they entered politics. She said that in other fields women have been combining motherhood and paid work for decades, but it has only recently become more manageable thanks to paid parental leave.

Ardern’s deputy, Winston Peters, is now acting prime minister, although Ardern will continue to be consulted on significant issues.

The birth capped an eventful year for Ardern, who became prime minister last October, three months after inheriting the leadership of the Labour Party when it was languishing in the polls.