June 05, 2000 12:00 PM

A barrister’s robe covering her bulging belly, Cherie Blair stood for two hours in a London courtroom May 16 to argue for expanding the parental leave rights enacted in 1999 by the government of her husband, British Prime Minister Tony Blair. With a wry smile the high-flying lawyer, 45, bemoaned the issue’s “long gestation period.”

Her own wait would not be so long. Four days later, with her husband by her side, Blair delivered the couple’s fourth child, a 6-lb. 12-oz. son—the first baby born to a sitting British prime minister in 150 years. Deemed a “gorgeous little boy” by his proud dad, little Leo (named after Tony’s 76-year-old father) met brothers Euan, 16, Nicholas, 14, and sister Kathryn, 12, later that day. Despite plenty of fatherly experience, Blair, 47, admitted that “this is the first time I have seen the whole thing through.” To a massive crowd gathered in front of his family’s home, he added, “You forget how tiny they are—and also the changing of nappies in the middle of the night.”

While the prime minister canceled all official meetings last week except one with Queen Elizabeth, he has decided not to take official paternity leave—a move that doubtless disappoints his wife, who had publicly encouraged him to do so. (Cherie is expected to return to work by August; Leo will be tended by a housekeeper, a nanny and Cherie’s mother, Gale Booth, 69, who has moved in temporarily.) Given that he’s in charge of the wee one’s wee hours, Blair may wish to reconsider that sabbatical. “Once Cherie goes to sleep,” he recently remarked, “it takes a minor nuclear explosion to wake her.”

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