Everything Pregnancy

The Surprising Reason You Don't Want to Give Birth in a Car

When mom Jia-Rui Cook gave birth to her second child in her car last year, she never expected the most difficult part to be the paperwork afterward.

pregnant woman in the car Shutterstock 
When a baby is ready to be born, nothing can stop it, and many pregnant mamas worry about not making it to the hospital or birth center in time. We've all seen enough movies and TV shows where a husband—or taxi driver—has to pull over on the side of the road as a newborn makes her debut on a car seat.

It's the stuff of nightmares for most expectant couples, but as one mom and dad found out, the unpleasantness doesn't end when your duo-turned-trio finally arrives at the hospital. Or once you get the car washed and detailed post-birth!

Despite being told earlier that day by her OB/GYN that she was only 1cm dilated at 39 weeks pregnant with her second child, mom Jia-Rui Cook pushed out her daughter Jemma in a Toyota Prius as her husband Bryan drove along Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. Yes, it was messy and scary as expected, but the most unexpected aspect came when they found out that the hospital wouldn't help them file the birth certificate paperwork because the baby wasn't born there.

Instead, Cook and her husband had to collect five pieces of proof to bring to the county public health department to register Jemma's birth. As Cook wrote in a recent New York Times article about her experience, she had to prove "that Bryan and I were who we said we were, that I was pregnant just before I got to the hospital, that Jemma was born alive, that the birth occurred in Los Angeles County, and that I had a witness. Until we could get that certificate, Jemma was nameless and stateless, invisible in the eyes of the government."

It took 35 days to get an appointment at the public health department where they could present their proof and walk out with the birth certificate they needed. "I felt a second wave of relief almost as intense as that first one in the car," Cook wrote. "A month later, I could finally apply for her Social Security number, and after that, finish the health insurance paperwork that was in limbo because I didn't have the right documents."

Different cities and states have different rules on how birth certificates can be obtained, and different hospitals interpret those rules differently, Cook learned. "A birth certificate, I learned, is probably the single most important document an American can possess," she wrote. "It's the gateway to citizenship, health insurance and school, so hospitals may be reluctant to put their necks on the line to confer such benefits."

While it makes sense that hospitals and governments want to make sure that birth certificates are issued correctly and to the right people, it's so annoying that new parents might have to jump through hoops when recovering from an unusual birth situation and while trying to care for a newborn. So I guess the takeaway from Cook's experience is this: if you live in a place with birth certificate rules like Los Angeles, you might want to camp out close to the hospital as you approach your due date!