- I’m originally from New Hampshire but have lived in Ireland since 2012.
- My 5-year-old son was born here, and I didn’t pay anything for his birth.
- When I drop him off at school, I don’t worry whether there’s going to be a shooting.
I grew up in New Hampshire, but I’ve spent most of my adult life in Ireland. I first came to County Galway in 2012, intending to stay for a few months — but after I met my, now ex, husband, I pretty much never left.
Now I’m a single mother to a 5-year-old. I’m grateful every day for my adopted country‘s midwife-centered public healthcare, gun safety, and money-where-its-mouth-is care for children.
I didn’t have to pay anything for my child’s birth
Socialized healthcare was something I could only dream about in the US, but here — at least for new parents — it’s a reality. I didn’t pay a cent out of pocket for my maternity or postpartum care. My friends in the US, even those with good health insurance, were hit with bills in the thousands after they gave birth. My pregnancy was planned, but I knew I wouldn’t have been able to afford that plan if I still lived in my home country.
The vast majority of my care came from midwives, not doctors. I felt a real sense of solidarity in the maternity ward where my baby and I spent his first days of life — both from the other mothers in the beds around me and from the experienced team that cared for us.
Another standard part of postpartum care in Ireland is house calls. A nurse visited my home deep in the countryside multiple times after my child’s birth, offering everything from physicals for my son to checking my perineal stitches and helping me breastfeed while I lay in my own bed.
I also receive the universal child benefit — a monthly payment offered to the parents of any Irish child, regardless of income. My child also has a card that allows him to see our doctor without charge. When he has a slight fever or other mild symptoms, I don’t have to weigh the cost of a doctor’s visit against my concerns about his health.
Not everything is rosy, though. A crucifix hung on the wall of the public hospital where I gave birth, and most public schools in Ireland are Catholic.
As a nonbeliever, those things make me pretty uncomfortable. There are some newer secular schools, but they’re mostly confined to more urban areas.
Abortion wasn’t legalized here until my child was 1 year old. At the time, my American friends felt sorry for me that I was going through pregnancy in such a “backward country.” Of course, those particular tables have now turned.
I don’t worry about school shootings
But the biggest difference is something I think about every day when I bring my kid to school.
I’m a teacher. One day, as I was grading alone in my classroom, I heard a sudden bang. I assumed it came from construction and kept grading, and then I realized that if I were in the US, I’d have locked my door and hidden under my desk.
That’s the biggest difference I see in parenting here: There have been no fatal school shootings in Ireland. When I drop my kid off at school, I don’t wonder if he will make it through the day alive.
Growing up, I was taught that the US was the best place to live in the world. But when asked if I’d want to move my family back home, I say no. The truth is that I’m safer here, and my child is safer, too. Nothing matters more than that.