Senator Tammy Duckworth Opens Up About Miscarriage, Road to Motherhood
On the December 2, 2021, episode of People's Me Becoming Mom podcast, Senator Tammy Duckworth, 53, shared her experience of going through several rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF) to get pregnant with her two daughters, Abigail and Maile Pearl, and her miscarriage while on the campaign trail.
The retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel, who has served as the junior United States senator from Illinois since 2017, made history in 2018, when she became the first senator to give birth while in office.
A U.S. Army helicopter pilot and combat veteran in the Iraq War, Duckworth lost both legs and some mobility in her right arm when her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade launched by insurgents. Despite her injuries, she continued to serve in the Illinois Army National Guard until 2014, when she retired as a lieutenant colonel.
Duckworth told host Zoë Ruderman, head of digital at People, that her IVF treatment involved about four daily injections for four years. "I am doing it on the road. I'm campaigning for reelection. I am giving myself shots morning, noon and night," Duckworth said.
"And because of my wartime injuries, I had to do blood thinners as well," she explained. "So I was giving myself probably four shots a day.
'I found out in the morning I had a miscarriage and had to go back to work in the afternoon, and I really needed time to process.'
"I counted [it] all up between the two daughters and all of the IVF cycles," Duckworth continued. "I probably did four years of shots every day, three or four injections a day."
Duckworth had tried for six years to get pregnant before starting IVF. Her journey involved "at least four or five" egg retrievals to become pregnant with her first daughter, Abigail, who was one of only two viable embryos. Abigail was born in 2014, while Duckworth was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She and her husband, Bryan Bowlsbey, welcomed their second daughter, Maile Pearl, in 2018, while Duckworth was a senator.
Between the births of her two daughters, Duckworth suffered a miscarriage in 2016, while she was running for U.S. Senate. On the podcast, she discussed the pervasive productivity culture in the United States that left her feeling compelled to continue working immediately following her dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure.
"Even though we cleared my calendar for the day [of the D&C], I was still on the phone. There was no resting, you just kept on going," she said. "It's inhumane."
"I found out in the morning I had a miscarriage and had to go back to work in the afternoon, and I really needed time to process," Duckworth shared during a July 2021 "CBS News" interview.
She was on the show to advocate for the Support Through Loss Act, a bill she and fellow congresswoman Ayanna Pressley introduced that would give families paid leave following pregnancy loss.
"It's so deeply personal, that journey to parenthood for families, and to have to go back to work that same day and not be able to grieve..." she continued. "Or sometimes you need to pull your resources together and figure out what you're going to do next and not have that time—to me, it seems like this is something that's an oversight when it comes to family-leave policies."