"What I am really nervous about is that cab ride to the hospital. How do people even do that?" I hear this a lot from expectant city dwellers. It can be a real source of stress during pregnancy, but after hundreds of cab rides through busy streets with people in labor, I promise this is something you can do! While no one has ever told me the cab ride was their favorite part, it tends to be manageable and better than expected. Plus, big cities are full of really kind, compassionate (or at least quick and quiet) cab drivers. They will get you there safely and often with best wishes and blessings for your baby.
Here are 6 tips to make your cab ride in labor as smooth as possible.
1. Know where you are going! Many people assume that getting to the hospital is as easy as typing the name of the facility into your Uber app, but it’s easy to get routed somewhere else if you are not careful. Many hospitals have multiple branches throughout the city or multiple entrances. I have had to quickly correct cab drivers several times after they were given a bad address by a partner who picked the wrong location when typing in their destination. So have all the information you need handy: the name of your hospital, the street address, and the entrance you should head to for Labor & Delivery.
2. Do not go to the hospital too early for fear of the cab ride. NYC hospitals routinely send people home when they are in early labor, which can result in more cab rides. There is a temptation to get the car ride over with before labor gets more intense or because you are worried about traffic, but this can really backfire if they send you back home. Talk to your care provider about when they want you to call them and when they want you to head to the hospital. You can also take a childbirth class to get more information on the signs and stages of labor or hire a labor doula to help you time your cab ride to the hospital.
3. Be prepared for the possibility of lots of body fluids! If your water has broken, you will be actively leaking amniotic fluid and should definitely have a pad on and sit on a towel. If your water hasn’t broken yet, a towel to sit on is still a great idea just in case. Throwing up is also very common, especially with bumpy city streets. I highly recommend having excellent bags to vomit in. I buy hospital grade bags, but strong zip lock bags will also work. Old bags from the bodega often have holes in the bottom and can be very messy. Also, pee right before you leave the house — as you have probably been doing for months.
4. Don’t eat right before leaving your house. Some hospitals still restrict food and fluids from laboring patients, so if you are hoping to get in a last snack before being admitted, I suggest delaying it until you arrive at the hospital. Bring snacks with you and eat them on the street outside the hospital or in the lobby before heading to Labor & Delivery. Eating right before you leave might make the car trip even less pleasant (see above).
5. Give yourself space in the backseat in case you need to move around. Any time you are in a moving vehicle, being seat belted is the safest option. But if that feels impossible while you are having contractions, moving into another position can often help a lot. Make space for yourself by not having more than one person in the back seat with you and by putting anything you don’t immediately need in the trunk. For alternatives to sitting down, you might try lay down with your head in someone’s lap or on a pillow, kneeling backwards on the seat or the floor (if the front seat is pulled forward), or being on your hands and knees across the backseat.
6. Have cash. Winter weather, busy times, broken meters, or other events can severely limit the availability of cabs and car services drivers in many places. In these cases, cash will often solve your problem. Hundred dollar bills have gotten me cab rides during the worst blizzards, in the aftermath of Sandy, during black outs and street closures, and in all sorts of other tough moments. You probably will not need it, but if you do, you’ll be really happy you were prepared.
Illustration by Jennifer Cascino of Famous Swan Productions.