Trying to Conceive in a Time of War

1. She locked her legs around his waist – 2. She held her husband’s hand during the transfer of sperm – 3. She curled her body against her husband waiting for their surrogate – Daring to love
She saved me from the land, 2016
4. She held her wife’s hand during the transfer of sperm – 5. She curled her body against her wife waiting for their surrogate – 6. She held her surrogate’s hand during the transfer of sperm – Daring to revolutionize
zimbits copy
7. He curled his body against his husband waiting for their surrogate – Daring to hope
8. She held her own hand during the transfer of sperm – Daring to be

certain to stamp their existence
as proof of this time 
inside Pandora’s Aquarium 
TOP Pandoras-Aquarium-by-stainedpaper

  1. when women’s bodies were battlefields 
  2. when bombs dropped
  3. when men trampled earth and flesh
  4. when officers killed black and brown folks
  5. when women drowned underfoot 
  6. when Muslims burned in their own mosques
  7. when teenage boys lay mummified in duct tape  
  8. when 50-degree weather laughed at the equator
  9. when white supremacists took every little seat  
  10. when an orange clown railroaded hundreds of millions
    into submission while asking his mirror
    Mirror Mirror on the wall
    who’s the most righteous one of all  

BOTTOM Pandoras-Aquarium-by-stainedpaper-2

What use was it to record
one’s DNA on a being
who didn’t even ask to be –

Did they not consider their precious gift
would be swallowed by the madness –

or maybe they were desperate and dreamy
for her Bathala hands
her Dalai Lama giggles
her Messiah toes 

to incarnate everything her parents wished her to be:




to hex and dismantle

the men with their war machines

and thrive.

Elle and Infant, oil on canvas, 2004 (original stolen, 2006)

Image credits from top to bottom:
“Soft Revolution” by Isobel Francisco, oil on canvas, 2015
“She saved me from the land, and returned me to the water” by Trinidad Escobar, acrylic and India ink on cardboard, 2016
“Untitled” by Gab Lopez, pen and ink on paper, 2017
“Dapit-hapon” (Sunset) by Mek Yambao, oil on wood, 2016
“Pandora’s Aquarium” by Isobel Francisco, oil on canvas, 2015 (detail top then bottom)
“Elle and Infant” by Genice Grace, oil on canvas, 2004 (original stolen in 2006)



Since the November 2016 election, the question whether my husband and I would still try to have children seriously arose, where a number of my liberal friends wondered whether it was worth it to bring a child into the world right now. It was a valid concern, one which I understand and support.

I thought of the couples closest to me who are currently trying to conceive (and having a hard time doing so), through good ol’ fashioned sex, IVF, or a surrogate. What a privilege it has become to have a child, where couples of favored means will go so far as to spend tens of thousands of dollars (health insurance not covering) on expensive fertility treatment without any guarantee of a successful pregnancy. They continue to try anyway during this tumultuous administration (with impeachment still far from sight).

This primal desire to bring a child into this world made me think of the circumstances of my own mother’s birth. She was conceived and born smack dab in the middle of a war. Not war in a faraway sense of the word as if war was happening somewhere else, but bombs were literally dropping from the sky from the time she was conceived to the time she was born. One vivid memory my grandmother shared with me was how her nine-month pregnant self had to hold her belly running across fields to safety between her family’s home and her in-laws’ home as bombs dropped all around her. Her husband had been a guerilla soldier fighting in the jungles of La Union. He was being hunted and wanted dead by the Imperial Japanese Army.

What makes people want to have babies? Despite the world’s mayhem then, it had not stopped my grandparents from wanting to start a family, and I thought, there must be something to that. Still.

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