My Baby Was Born In An Amniotic Sac

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One of the first myths that gets kicked to the curb at pre-natal class is the “Gushing Water Break” – you know, the scene in the movies where the pregnant woman, always out in public, is suddenly standing in a pool of liquid as she cries out, “My water just broke!” In reality, when the amniotic sac ruptures, it’s usually more like a slow leak, often without a “gush.” And, in some instances, the water doesn’t break at all. Which is exactly what happened to me.

My second daughter was born entirely encased within the amniotic sac. My husband described her birth like it was a scene from The Matrix – the baby was wrapped in a translucent bubble-like substance; he could see her mouth was open, but she appeared to be frozen, and then before he knew what was happening, the nurses tore the sac open, cleaned her up and placed her on my chest. I would’ve loved to have seen her in her cozy environment of the past nine months, but everything happened so quickly that my husband didn’t have a chance to stop the nurses from busting her out of her pod, if only so I could see “the caul” for myself.

If you’ve read David Copperfield, The Shining or, more recently, The Birth House, you’ll be familiar with the term “born with a caul,” meaning the baby emerges from the birth canal with a portion of the amniotic sac still on her head. Considered a sign of good luck in medieval times, the caul would be preserved by the midwife to give to the mother as a keepsake. The caul was also said to be sought-after by seafarers and mariners who believed that tying it to the mast could offer protection against drowning. And, in some cultures, such babies are believed to be special, blessed with the gift of clairvoyance.

Such births are rare (fewer than 1 in 80,000 births) because most of the time, the membranes rupture spontaneously with labor. But in developed countries, where interventions in the delivery process are routine, it’s not uncommon for doctors to rupture the membranes in order to increase contractions or induce labor – or simply to check the baby’s status if there’s reason for concern. Interventions serve to further lower the number of caul births that might otherwise occur.

My second daughter’s birth was precipitous — from the time of my first contraction to the emergence of baby, just three hours elapsed. It was so quick that there was no time to administer anything for my pain, no time to start the first round of antibiotics to protect the baby from infection (because, to complicate matters further, I had tested positive for Group B streptococcus, a bacteria common in as many as one-third of all people). To prevent the bacteria from being passed onto the baby, pregnant women are treated with antibiotics as soon as the waters break.

It may not be scientifically accurate to say so, but I feel as though my baby took care to protect herself – by coming into the world in such a hurry and in her own protective bubble. She doesn’t yet show signs of possessing a sixth sense (unless the ability to tell when her father’s been eating candy counts). But I plan to treat her as though she were just a normal kid.