The other night I was following a doula client and her husband to the hospital they had chosen to give birth in. I do this fairly frequently and know my way to any local hospital using a variety of routes. So as I'm following him I realize that he has made a wrong turn. It takes my mind a few seconds to see which route he's taking because it's after midnight and dark. I still say to myself that this is not the best way to go, but I have no control over it anymore, since I am following them.
This isn't the first time I've thought people were taking routes to the hospital that were less convenient or further out of their way. In fact, I've literally had dads drive to the wrong hospital or go the wrong direction. However, it left me thinking about how people always say plan your route to the hospital beforehand. It's something that I don't say anymore, perhaps because I know my way to the local hospitals, where to park and what entrance to use. I don't give it a second thought any more.
The time has come for me to change that way of thinking. I do believe that it is beneficial to plan your route to the hospital or birth center. Besides knowing when to go to the hospital, how is the next biggest question. This doesn't require tactical maps and hundreds of routes, but realizing there can always be traffic, a broken light, a parade, etc. Knowing a few routes can be your best option. You might even want to find some that use the expressway and side streets instead of relying on one main route. For example, here locally we have a major chunk of the expressway that is closed every weekend for the next six months. It's really putting a cramp in my traveling plans, though luckily hasn't effected a birth yet. Being aware of things like this can help you plan an alternate route prior to labor when your brain is clearly elsewhere.
In addition to having alternative routes planned out, it's important to know where to go once you are at the hospital or birth center. Some facilities ask that you report directly to the labor floor, while others ask that you report to admitting during the day, the emergency room after business hours and any other combination. If your hospital has a brief class on labor and delivery or offers a tour this would be a good time to ask these questions. Sometimes your doctor or midwife will give you a packet with this information. If you can't find it easily, simply call the hospital and ask someone to explain the procedures to you.
Other things you might find out include where to park. Some places have special parking, others ask that you park in the emergency room lot, or in regular parking. Make a mental note of any fees involved and whether or not there are time limits. You'd hate to go get your car to bring home your new baby only to find it had been towed.
By utilizing the correct entrance and proper parking you might save yourself some time or at the very least separation from your party so that they aren't stuck in admissions while you're alone in labor and delivery. Just a week ago a dad nearly missed the birth of his baby due to a situation like this. The hospital had changed policy and he was sent to admitting (because only mom or dad can go) while they found his wife to be completely dilated and ready to push. He made it about two minutes before the baby.
Very rarely you might be in a situation where you think that the baby will be born before you can get to the place of birth. The best advice is to pull off to the side of the road. Do not attempt to drive while someone is giving birth in the car. Have someone else call 911 or you can call, when the car is stopped. In general do nothing to prevent the birth or to speed it along. If you do happen to have the phone an emergency operator can help talk you through a birth. It's also wise to know the basics of how to deliver a baby. Also know that you will probably not need this information.
So, have a plan and an alternate for getting to your place of birth. Once you're there know the regulations regarding labor and delivery parking and know where to report once you go.
Good luck and good birth!