Ex­pec­ta­tions vs re­al­ity

What to Ex­pect When You Aren’t Ex­pected puts true birthing sto­ries from queer Nova Sco­tians on stage.


re­spon­si­bil­ity both po­lit­i­cal and eth­i­cal. “As ed­u­ca­tors, as re­searchers, we have to be re­ally care­ful about how [these sto­ries] are pre­sented,” says As­ton. “How do we re­ally bring those voices and those sto­ries to light…What do we do with that as re­searchers?”

As­ton ex­plains that they didn’t be­gin the re­search with the in­tent of cre­at­ing a play—or do­ing any other cre­ative work, for that mat­ter. But some­where along the way, she had “a light­bulb mo­ment” and rec­og­nized the po­ten­tial for a cre­ative work to have an em­pathic im­pact on the pub­lic in a way tra­di­tional meth­ods of pre­sent­ing re­search may not.

So, with the on­go­ing con­sent of the par­tic­i­pants whose sto­ries have been in­cluded, As­ton and Gold­berg worked with Valentina to bring these birthing nar­ra­tives to an au­di­ence be­yond academia’s ivory tower. What to Ex­pect in­cludes only some of the many sto­ries shared with As­ton and Gold­berg, and their ini­tial re­search was it­self lim­ited, not in­clud­ing the ex­pe­ri­ences of trans men who give birth. Still, they hope that to­gether they can il­lu­mi­nate a path to im­proved, more in­clu­sive health-care ex­pe­ri­ences in Nova Sco­tia.

The play “is politi­cized be­cause our work is very politi­cized, but it’s done in a beau­ti­ful, cre­ative way,” says Gold­berg. “Some­times peo­ple think these are iso­lated sto­ries—but these sto­ries are not iso­lated, they’re not apo­lit­i­cal, they’re not aso­cial, they’re not ahis­tor­i­cal. And that piece shows that they have real po­ten­tial to of­fer us new di­rec­tions of what we need to do, mov­ing for­ward.”

That for­ward-look­ing en­ergy grounds both the play and the re­searchers’ in­ter­est in con­tin­u­ing their em­pathic, arts-based re­search model—into re­search they hope will be in­clu­sive of a broader range of ex­pe­ri­ences.

“Pol­icy-mak­ers, gov­ern­ment, fund­ing bod­ies—on the one hand, they love num­bers,” says Gold­berg. “Yet to have any im­pact and ef­fect on any­one—num­bers don’t af­fect us. When you are af­fected emo­tion­ally by some­thing, that’s an op­por­tu­nity to re­ally have you stop and re­flect and think.”

mind. I heard the peo­ple around me joke and smile and con­grat­u­late them­selves as they watched Hil­lary ef­fort­lessly de­feat her beastly op­po­nent. They


Ex­pect to see ac­tors, from left, An­nie La­Plante, So­phie Schade, Koumbie and Emily Shute.

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