Timor-Leste: The adventurous uterus and an act of God

Climbing the highest peak in Timor-Leste to greet the dawn with about 300 people, who, upon reaching the summit, prayed for fertility.  I participated in the ritual, whispering a quiet prayer for stabilisation of the country’s booming population growth.


Several hours later, my inter-uterine contraceptive device (IUD) fell out.  A fairly concrete message of what the Virgin Mary thought about my IUD, and my whispered prayer for a slowing of the exploding population of Timor-Leste.

Well played, Virgin Mary, well played indeed.

I’m clearly blessed to be one of the 3% who manage to expel an IUD, and of the even smaller group who drop an IUD due to divine intervention.  #blessed #chosen

Surprisingly, this act of God did not impact on my firm decision to be a mother to cats, and only cats (via surrogacy). Well, what to do? Naturally, I immediately send a photo of the expelled device to a mate, with the happy explanation that my female body had done what society has always expected of it, and had finally birthed something.  Good uterus.  I now have worth.

A conference has me impounded in a hillside convent for the following three days. Having expelled the IUD, with Mary’s help, I’m at a marginally higher risk of infection: I don’t have running water. But I do have a bucket. Unperturbed by the many signs that I have abandoned my womanhood and duty to breed, I use the breaks to book an appointment for a new insertion. Comforted by the Caucasian Jesus in my wardrobe, I go for gold and contact the Marie Stopes clinic in Dili.


Marie Stopes are the rock stars of reproductive health: they provide dignified, safe contraceptive and abortion services (abortion only in countries where this is legal, not here) in 37 countries. In Timor-Leste, Marie Stopes has clinics and an extensive and impressive outreach programme: teams travel to vulnerable communities by foot, motorbike, car and boat to provide family planning and reproductive health services. Over 26 million people are using Marie Stopes contraception, including me.  Well, I was. Until that little act of god.

Marie Stopes in Melbourne sorted me out with my last IUD: I had a choice of local anaesthetic or IV sedation.  There was a cast of thousands, and the procedure was performed by a doctor in a fancy contraption-filled theatre.

Corpus Christi seems like the perfect day for an IUD insertion.  Whilst Timor-Leste celebrated the feast of the Body of Christ, I walk down a hot, dusty street to the clinic. Things are a bit different here: a simple, clean room, no pain relief and an excellent midwife. Marie Stopes had thoughtfully provided a translator.  In this deeply Catholic country, I’m asked without judgement about my marital status, and the last time I had sex.

The procedure was low key: no bells and whistles, no disposable equipment, and was over in a flash.

Having long been a fan of the work of Marie Stopes, I am pleased to have experienced the same excellent service and care provided to the women of Timor-Leste.  I am now even more admiring of this brave, practical and empowering organisation.

Contraception saves lives.

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