Nurse Moira is caring for three different women in labour: two have female birth partners; one is alone. 

Teenage Stacey with her school friend Jeannine adopts a punk, devil-may-care attitude to the whole process, but shrieks in agony with her pains; she plans to keep the baby in defiance of all her family members and advisors. Unknown to Stacey, Jeannine once had a baby and gave it away for adoption; it is a secret that Jeannine wants to believe was for the best.

The solitary Jane had once adopted a baby like Jeannine’s only to lose it again within the requisite month-long waiting period. Heartbroken Jane and her husband paid for a woman to have IVF so that Jane could become pregnant. She is thrilled that she will finally become a mother, but her earlier experiences make her sympathize with mothers who cannot conceive or who have lost babies through adoption or death.

Eva an immigrant from Kosovo had been brought to Canada as a housekeeper by the driven businesswoman Carol, who is "coaching" her. Because Carol is no longer fertile, she deliberately goaded Eva into becoming a surrogate mother, inseminated artificially through her husband’s sperm. Should Eva refuse or break the contract, she will be returned to Kosovo. For fear of the slightest damage to the child that she intends to claim, Carol will not let Eva speak or have any analgesia. Eva is miserable; the audience hears her thoughts, but Carol and the nurse cannot.

Moira copes with the three radically different scenarios, succeeding in giving egalitarian care. Moira and Jane inform Eva of her rights, and she takes her baby and returns to Kosovo. 


A powerful exploration of the primordial urge to have children and the multiplicity of maternal experiences from the beautiful to the ugly. All three women want the best for their children with more or less attention to what is "right."  Jeannine and Eva wrestle with their responsibility and emotional turmoil in surrendering the children that they have carried. Carol is odious in her selfish control over Eva whom she treats as a slave, a breeding animal, but even her cruel behavior is motivated by that same urge to have a child.

The source book explains that obstetrician-gynecologist Nisker "has been writing plays since the early 1990s …  in order to bring audiences to the position of persons immersed in the vortex of new scientific capacity and its social implications. [He] ultimately aims to promote humanity in health policy development.” As with all Nisker’s plays, this text could be read or adapted for the stage. 


This work was influenced and partially motivated by the doctoral research of Vangie Bergum.

Primary Source

From Calcedonies to Orchids: Plays Promoting Humanity in Health Policy



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Nisker, Jeffrey A.

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