Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cradle of Government Lawmakers Polls Apart on Bringing Up Baby - in Congress

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cradle of Government Lawmakers Polls Apart on Bringing Up Baby - in Congress

Article excerpt

REP. ENID Greene Waldholtz plods through the Capitol clutching a leather folder to her chest. It sort of disguises her shape, but mostly helps fend off the inevitable tummy-patters.

With her pregnancy just about reaching full bloom, the freshman Republican, 36, of Utah, is struggling to maintain her dignity and play down the novelty of her condition in a world still dominated by males.

Things couldn't be more different for another member of the Utah delegation, Rep. Bill Orton, a first-time father who doesn't have any qualms about flaunting his new role as a parent. Orton, a Democrat, shows up at work pushing his 3-month-old around in a stroller and wearing a Mickey Mouse pacifier clipped to his lapel.

In the self-proclaimed "family friendly" Congress, Orton and Waldholtz are the most visible symbols of a new era. But they also validate the adage that - in gender relations at least - the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Orton knows he can get away with flouting tradition with his Mr. Mom performance. Waldholtz knows she can't.

She was deeply embarrassed the other day when her swollen feet would fit only into oversized white sneakers that seemed to glow beneath her demure navy dress like giant clown shoes. No assurances from her fellow female lawmakers could persuade Waldholtz to succumb to this comfort. She immediately ordered all new footwear: dark-colored pumps wide enough to go the distance. `Humanizing Element'

A no-nonsense member of the Rules Committee, Waldholtz tries to ignore it as many of her colleagues develop that fumbling awkwardness pregnancy seems to inspire.

"It's kind of a humanizing element," she says. "I just use it as a way to get into discussions about other issues."

She wants people on Capitol Hill to think of her as a lawmaker, not a mother. She doesn't plan to bring her baby to the office, except for occasional visits or slow Friday afternoons. And her determination to maintain a business-as-usual air seems to be having the desired effect.

"You'd never know she was pregnant except from looking at her," says the Rules Committee chairman, Gerald Solomon, R-N.Y., in a comment he intends as a compliment.

If it sounds like Solomon hasn't had much experience dealing with pregnant colleagues, it's because he hasn't. Waldholtz, a former businesswoman and corporate lawyer who married a Republican activist two years ago, is only the second House member ever to bear a child in office - and the first in two decades.

"I think this demonstrates that Congress is starting to be more reflective of society as a whole, not only in gender but age as well," says Waldholtz, who was elected last year in the crush of 87 newcomers - most younger than 45. "It won't be another 20 years before we have the next pregnant member."

The transformation is coming slowly. …

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