• The Fit Midwife

Some kind of wonderful.....

Have you ever had that feeling, when you witness something so incredible and surreal that you realise you are privileged to be standing there, present in that exact moment? I had this experience this week; making my 12 hour nightshift just so much more enjoyable.

I had a lovely patient, just a nice family really. It was the lady’s second baby. Her first baby being a very quick, normal delivery. Something we call “precipitate labour”. This is defined as the rapid onset and progression of labour, leading to rapid delivery of the baby. She said it took a couple of hours first time. And for a first time mum, this is not exactly common….

Anyway, her second delivery was even faster. Due to her history, she hung around at the hospital ( I always trust women who have had a true precipitate delivery - they need to hang around or they risk delivery in the car/taxi/bath). We decided to use the inflateable pool as a bath for her as she was in the latent phase of labour, that is what she would have done at home, so why not in hospital (You should definitely use this option in hospital if you are in the latent phase and it is appropriate…. Or if you are at home; have a bloody bath! It works!).

50 minutes later, she pressed the call bell. She said she thought the head was coming. She wan’t wrong. I couldn’t really see due to her position, but a quick pool adapted examination (whilst she was kneeling over the side of the pool) clarified the head was about to crown. No pushing, she literally breathed it down. But now she wanted to push. So I told her to. Slowly, the head began to crown, then I could see something pretty cool. Her waters had not broken. The baby was still completely encased in the membranes. And they showed no signs of breaking even as she was pushing.

So with gentle pushes, she delivered the head of her baby… after a minute or so, the next contraction came and she delivered her baby. So the even more amazing part was, that the membranes (bag of waters) remained in tact, even then. So we all just kind of watched for a couple of seconds, as her baby, sealed in the membranes, in her own water, floating under the water in the pool. I’ve seen babies born with their membranes stuck to them etc, but never completely encased and in the pool. She was still in her own little world, even as she came in to this one!

I was gently supporting the baby underwater until mum reached down to get her. At this point her waters broke. She brought her out the water, I peeled the membranes off her head and she was straight on mum’s chest. The couple were so happy with their delivery. She hadn’t planned a water birth. But was so excited she had one. And she knew what happened was rare. It is known as ‘En Caul’.

En Caul, happens in less than 1 in 80,000 births. This includes babies born with broken waters, but still tightly covered in membranes as well as the complete in tact membranes and waters. It is perfectly safe to mum and baby, but can look a bit weird.

There are lot’s of old wives tales associated with being born En Caul. It is widely thought to be good luck. With some superstitions saying the child will have an affinity with water and will never drown. So much belief was held in this idea that sailors used to pay a lot of money buying the membranes of babies born En Caul and taking them to sea for protection. It is also said children born in this manner are destined greatness…. It is speculated that some pretty impressive people have been born En Caul too…. Sigmund Freud, Lord Byron, Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander the Great.

Either way, it was pretty damn cool sight to behold for me. I doubt I will come across it again. But I am sure that this little girl will be destined for greatness… I am convinced all girls are though :)

Nikki xx

(image is from birthdoulas.ca)


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