Melissa Cate, an Oregon-based birth photographer, captured a stunning photo of a baby born in its caul (the tissues of the amniotic sac), and it’s the coolest thing we’ve seen all week.
In modern U.S. births, few babies are born this way. There’s a reason: Many doctors and midwives break the mother’s amniotic sac (“breaking the water”) to help a mother’s labor progress more quickly.
Cauls are rare — only 1 in 80,000 babies arrives en caul — and have long been the stuff of legend and superstition.
Many cultures hail the appearance of a caul as a sign of good luck for the baby — and associate a caul with the birth of a prophet or healer. No pressure, kid. And get this: Roman midwives occasionally swiped cauls and then sold them for a pretty sum to, of all people, lawyers (“First, let’s caul all the lawyers!”). Roman lawyers believed that having a caul (instead of a briefcase, we’re assuming) would assure they won cases. That belief had such traction, it made its way to England, Denmark and Iceland, weirdly enough.
Other cultures were certain a caul would cure diseases like malaria. In Belgium, the baby would only be lucky if some nice relative got around to burying the caul in a field. And coal miners (caul miners, heh! We still got it!) liked to bring their lucky cauls with them to ward off terrible explosions, fires or cave-ins. Like ya do.
The stripping (or breaking) of the amniotic sac isn’t necessary for labor to progress. The Sacred Birth South Africa page states, “Please note that as with many other procedures, this too is totally unnecessary and best left alone… it WILL break all by itself when the time is right.”
True story. But in the moment, we would have done anything to speed up labor — caul be damned. (Sorry, baby. You probably wouldn’t have wanted to be an anointed prophet anyway, trust us. Graphic design and accounting are way easier life paths.)