Editor’s Note: Happy Friday! This morning we have Deepa Upadhyaya bewitching us with tales of being born in the caul. Here she is:
Halloween month is upon us and within me several emotions are brewing. This witch’s cauldron has a heavy ladle for all the chunky matter that comes along with Winter’s upcoming arrival. To me Autumn is a season of mysticism. Like magic all that was once green is now a rich orange, brown or red. We also have black now… dark mornings and evenings, witches robes and cats. There is deepness around too.
In spirit of the supernatural, this month I would like to discuss being born in the caul. To be born in the caul (or en caul) means a baby was born with an intact amniotic sac (bag of waters) or with some of the amnion (membrane) covering the baby’s head.
These babies are often called caulbearers. They are a rare bunch – about one in every 1000 births. However, some suggest that it may be more common, especially in births without medical intervention.
Increasingly the amnion may be medically cut by a doctor or midwife. This is known as artificial rupture of the membranes (AROM). Of course, the bag of waters can break naturally – sometimes when a woman is in labor and sometimes when she is not. AROM can be a necessary and useful tool. For example, if a fetus’s health in the womb is in question (i.e. there is an irregular heart rate pattern) AROM can determine the presence of meconium (fetal poop). Meconium is a sign of fetal distress.
Also, AROM can be a useful tool to help progress labor, especially when the baby’s head is well applied to the cervix. Of course, AROM for a faster delivery should be employed only when the health of mom and/or baby is concerned. AROM to speed the labor process without an underlying cause is questionable. However, we live in an immediate paced world and taking time for nature does not always match with society at large.
Ooops, I just opened a big can of worms!
Maybe I’ll put them in my cauldron! Being born en caul is often referred to as having a veil at birth. Some believe that it is a sign of good luck or a good omen.
This was probably because in pre-antibiotic days, an intact bag of water helped to prevent infection (it still does). Some legends believe that caulbearers cannot drown. The following is a summary of some cultural beliefs or myths regarding being born in the caul:
• Hmong believe that caulbearers were monarchs in previous lives and the sac is part of their past attire. Hmong also believe that these babies will grow up strong, healthy, intelligent and prosperous. Furthermore, some Hmong save the sac, dry it, and keep it in a safe place for luck. It is then to be returned to the caulbearer at his/her funeral in order to further pass on the good luck.
• Croatian and some European countries believe that caulbearers are vampires.
• Icelandic and Scottish myth suggests that caulbearers have psychic powers.
• Buddhists often believe that a caulbearer will be a future Dalai Lama.
• Egyptian folklore insinuates that caulbearers are fated to a life of mysticism.
• According to British legend, those babies born with a veil will lead a life of travel, but will not fatigue.
Just remember that legends are passed on beliefs that lie somewhere on the spectrum between true and false. Infact, two of the references below state the exact opposite in regards to twins born en caul.
One source said that caulbearing twins were believed to be angels with protected souls and the other said that it was the mark of demonic souls.
There is a lot on the Internet regarding the mysticism of being born en caul. There are numerous chat groups and it is definitely a sub-culture. The en caul chatters reminded me of all those geeks in high school that played Dungeons and Dragons – my homeys!
Further reading on the subject can be found through the following links: