Remote Birth

Remote Birth

Marcellina prepares to attempt to correction of the breech position through external manipulation. Eliza’s family surrounds her on a humble bedroom floor. © Mathew Lynn

Marcellina is one of hundreds of Timor Leste’s traditional midwives. Every day, she walks between ten to fifteen kilometres assisting expecting and young mothers with antenatal and neonatal care in and around the remote mountainous village of Asulau. Her time-honoured techniques have been passed down through generations. In recent years, she has incorporated contemporary practices learnt through the Dili based Bairo Pite Clinic and Japanese NGO, Frontline.

On 2 July 2011, Marcellina was called to assist Eliza Soares, 25, give birth to her fifth daughter. The birthing process was far from smooth. A breech birth three hours from the capital meant that both the young mother and baby were at serious risk to the small South East Asian countries exceptionally high infant and maternal mortality rate.

Midwife Marcellina realises that Eliza’s baby is in a breech position quietly reflects upon the severity of the situation. © Mathew Lynn


Using contemporary medical techniques while respecting and incorporating traditional environments and techniques, Marcellina managed to correct the breech birth saving Eliza’s life. Eliza’s newborn child refused to cry. After what seemed like an agonising eternity punctuated by the hushed whispering of the word ‘moris?’ (alive?) by Eliza’s relatives, Marcellina managed to revive the infant Roberta. Shortly after bursting into tears, she fed on her mother’s milk. The tension melted, as the word ‘moris’ was again uttered, this time with exclamations of relief.

Mathew Lynn.


For a detailed gallery of Mathew‘s images click here.




Although a normal childbirth can be excruciatingly painful and extremely dangerous, a breech birth has the possibility of exacerbating these risks. The possibility of complications drastically increases. © Mathew Lynn

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