The infant son of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg returned home Friday after three weeks of medical treatment, 125 miles in an ambulance, and a “terrifying” period spent on a ventilator, Buttigieg’s spouse said.

Chasten Buttigieg and his husband, who is the nation’s first openly gay Cabinet Secretary, adopted Joseph August and his sister Penelope Rose in late summer. It was only in recent weeks that the couple revealed that their son, whom they refer to as “Gus,” was in poor health.

“A special thank you to the countless medical professionals who helped Gus (and his dads and sister) along the way,” Chasten Buttigieg wrote on Twitter. He also thanked people who shared stories of their stays in pediatric intensive care units.

Pete Buttigieg had been on parental leave since mid-August, in a move that spurred widespread conversation about the absence of national paid parental leave.

A Politico story that called him “MIA,” or missing in action, emboldened critics. Some conservatives also questioned whether fathers should go on extended parental leave, while others attacked Buttigieg for leaving work when an important infrastructure bill was pending in Congress — the bill passed the House late Friday — and as congested American ports are exacerbating supply chain problems.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg responded to criticism of his paternity leave in televised interviews on Oct 17. (The Washington Post)

Last month, Fox News host Tucker Carlson criticized the transportation secretary’s decision to take parental leave, using language that prompted accusations of homophobia. Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.-R) said on Twitter that “Pete is absent during a transportation crisis that is hurting working-class Americans.”

Buttigieg defended his leave, noting that he was in constant contact with his office and telling MSNBC that the decision reflected the “pro-family” nature of the Biden administration.

His supporters also said that Buttigieg was helping to erase the stigma of fathers going on parental leave.

“Paternity leave is about your family but it is also about you as a productive person in whatever role you have, whether that’s working in the private sector or public sector,” said Rep. Colin Allred (D-Tex.), the first congressman to take paternity leave.

“The reality is you have welcomed a new child into your life and it’s going to change everything in your home and you’re going to need time to adjust to that, to bond with that child to go through the transition.”

Buttigieg also used his time off to advocate for the Biden administration’s proposal for national paid parental leave. Democrats had proposed a 12-week guarantee that was eventually scaled back. This week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that four weeks of paid family and medical leave would be re-added to the spending bill.

On Friday, however, the secretary was simply celebrating the departure of his child from hospital.

“Thankful, relieved, and reflecting a great deal on the mixture of joy, terror, and love that is parenting,” he wrote.