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I gave birth as a single mother in Australia thanks to universal healthcare. I couldn't have done it in the US.

Margaret Ambrose with her daughters Greta and Rori
The author with her daughters.
Margaret Ambrose

  • I'm a single mom to two daughters, and we live in Australia.
  • Both of my daughters were born using IVF, which was partially covered by my health insurance.
  • After my C-section, I had a nurse check on me at home.

When I decided to become a single mother, there were a lot of things weighing on my mind — such as how it'd be to go through in vitro fertilization alone, and who would be with me when I gave birth. 

One thing that I never worried about was if the cost of IVF would prevent me from becoming a mother. That's because I had my babies in Australia.

It wasn't always my aspiration to become a single mom, but I was approaching 40, newly single, and didn't want the lack of a partner to prevent me from fulfilling my dream of becoming a mother. I live in a country where universal healthcare — Medicare, which includes IVF — is taken for granted, so finances simply didn't factor into my decision.

Not having to pay was a huge plus

In Australia, there are clinics that offer bulk-billed IVF, a service that is covered entirely by Medicare for those who are unable to afford treatment. Low-income earners are offered low-cost options as well as payment plans.

I decided, though, that when it came to choosing an IVF specialist, I wanted one of the best. I was lucky enough to get in, but it came at a price. Medicare covered only part of his hefty fees, and every embryo transfer in the hospital also had an out-of-pocket cost.

Happily, I became pregnant with Greta on my third attempt, and the bills stopped. Pregnancy and birth are covered completely by Medicare. That includes pathology, doctor's appointments, and the hospital stay.

I gave birth at the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne, which was a brand-new public facility that boasted the latest equipment and beautiful rooms, many of them individual patient rooms. Because of my age, it was deemed safer for me to have a cesarean, which I did for both of my girls.

All the surgeons in the room were lovely, and, with my mom by my side, I had a positive birth experience.

I had a nurse check on me at home after giving birth

The first year of a child's life in Australia is punctuated by multiple visits to a maternal-health center, where a nurse collects and monitors developmental milestones, offers advice to new moms, and puts them in touch with other services, such as housing or family-violence support, should they be needed.

Because I had a cesarean, my maternal-health nurse came to my home for initial visits. It wasn't unusual for me to receive phone calls where she would say, "I'm just about to leave work, and I was wondering if you need me to drop off some milk or anything else on my way home?"

As a single mother, this support and friendship was priceless — quite literally, too, as it was all covered by the government.

Having children had been such a long, emotional road, so it was important to me that once I had them, I got to stay at home with them for as long as possible. 

In Australia, the government pays women three months of parental leave, and the company I worked for offered an additional three months. With the leave I had also accumulated, I was able to be with my child for one year before I even had to consider going back to work.

I was given a choice, and thanks to the country I live in, I was able to make the right one for me.

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