Creativity Midwife


26 of August was the day that my professional development workshop Reconnect to your Creativity was scheduled to start at 4 pm.

The days leading up to a residential workshop on The Rest are exponentially chaotic as we get the accommodation, food and venue ready, while discovering critical things that haven’t yet been done and at the same time preparing myself emotionally and mentally for a three day intensive residential process.  All the while dealing with the threads of anxiety that pull at my gut because its a new workshop with the million known unknowns (who are they, what will they be like, how will they fit, will the new workshop plan work) plus some unknown unknowns (?).

As mid-morning rolls around the bakkie pulls up and the staff (Cedric, Richard and Ranga) jump out attempting calm but exuding panic.  A cow is having trouble calving and they have brought her in to the kraal.  Life and death shoot to the top of the priority list and all else is put on hold.  I rush around the house looking for antibiotics, calf chains (we haven’t needed these for a year), a bucket of hot water and most importantly the calving bible, Heather Smith Thomas’ Essential Guide to Calving (and Where there is no Vet just in case).  Kyla (2) senses the badly masked panic and demands to be picked up.  I continue rushing around, now just with one hand free and an extra 14 kgs in the other.  Minutes later Callum (4) arrives crying hot tears having fallen and hurt himself.  A brief cuddle and consolation and everyone piles into the bakkie (easier than leaving them behind) and we head for the kraal where the cow is being guided into the race.

The kids are relegated to a safe distance and we get into position:  Ranga holding the tail straight up.  Me with my long gloves and lube feeling inside the cow.  The calf is not in the birth canal and is facing the wrong way.  I can hardly tell which part is which.


E has in the meantime been reading the Calving book and has identified that this is a breach birth.  The first step is to push the calf further back.  My arms are too short.  Cedric (long, strong arms and solid experience in calf midwifery) steps in. So the process goes on with E talking us through it (with his excellent spacial skills, easily imagining how the backwards calf tucked inside the cow womb must be guided out) instructing Cedric how to tuck the calf hoof up carefully so it doesn’t damage the mother on its way out. Ranga patiently holding the tail (let it go and Cedric gets a 500 kg kick in the gut).  Richard and Cedric easing the calf out with strength and gentleness.  Me assisting with lots of lube (and sympathising with the general agony of childbirth and the lack of privacy of this particular one).


And then all of a sudden it was easy and he slipped out … miraculously alive!  What a phenomenal feeling.  Cow and calf made it! saved by the best team work.


Now that the life and death problem has been dealt with its back to handling the other priorities.  But with a little extra wisdom and perspective to help the process.

Making connections (as is my habit) I reflect on the fact that producing offspring is the ultimate creative act (and what a funny coincidence that this should happen on the very day of my first Reconnect to your Creativity workshop which is aimed, not at those wallowing in creativity , but at people who are struggling to fit into their creative selves).

It gets me to thinking that even childbirth, the most natural and fundamental creative activity, can sometimes need a little help.  Its not the cows fault that she couldn’t birth the calf naturally (she wasn’t partying too hard or being mean to her husband or dancing too wildly or sleeping wrong) its just something that sometimes happens.  And if we hadn’t helped her she and her calf would have most definitely have died.  And so also with creativity: the process of turning an idea into something manifest can also get stuck.

When this creative impulse is trapped or blocked by a violent inner (or external) critic, lack of opportunity or resources, it can lead to feelings of depression, frustration and anxiety (it might not actually kill us but in extreme cases may make life not worth living).   This workshop was an opportunity for people to give space and time to their own creative impulses and recognise what was stuck and in need of a bit of extra lubrication.  Helping the cow calve reminded me that sometimes people need a Creativity Midwife too and got me all excited about taking on that role for the next few days.


The workshop exceeded my expectations.  I had the privilege of a deeply diverse, all local group.  A group of people that in our socially divided community would never normally find themselves sitting together in a circle and even less likely to be sharing a cottage and morning breakfast.  The diversity of the group mirrored one of the fundamental ingredients of creativity:  the recognition that there is not just one answer, one way, one idea but rather, the more open you can be to possibilities, the richer your creative product.

This is what one of the participants said about the workshop:

I believe I did mention to you how I used to love writing poems but for some reason suddenly stopped. My visit to The Rest has helped me sit down and actually analyse the root of why I had that passion and why I suddenly stopped.
I noticed that by writing I was actually allowing myself to be in contact with my PAIN, and the more I wrote, the more I was letting go.
One of the things that I am grateful for is learning how to actually manage the Inner Critic and realizing that it was my own energy, feeling and believing that I will amount to nothing.
Thobeka Booysen

Through the process the participants became a little more open with one another as they saw their stories mirrored in a different other. This sometimes surprising revelation was an important doorway into Creativity.

In the end, by allowing themselves to be their vulnerable, human selves (no longer cowering from harsh, perfectionist inner critics) they gave each other permission to do the same and as a result discovered an easy joy in creating and witnessing creativity all around.  With creative juices flowing they  could be each others creativity midwives!

p.s.  After all that trauma the cow did not want to suckle her calf.  (This has happened before and it was my job to stand there three times a day beating the cow on the nose with a large stick every time she tried to kick her calf away.  Eventually she accepted her responsibility and became fiercely protective and the calf weaned at a record weight – nicknamed “Baby Jake”).  Manifesting our creative impulse is just the beginning. Consistently  nurturing and nourishing it is the real work.

p.p.s The first thing the cow wanted to do when she saw me was to charge me.  She reckoned I was responsible for the massive pain she experienced.  Facilitators don’t always get all the warm fuzzy appreciation we believe we deserve!

p.p.p.s As I was about to start writing this blog Richard arrived to say another calf was stuck!!!  Luckily this one was quick and easy compared to the last.   E didn’t need to read us the Calving book and so took these pics for the blog (which is why the calf isn’t coming out backwards in the last pic!).

The next Reconnect to your Creativity workshop is happening on the 18 – 20 November 2016.  I can also run it for your organisation on a date that suits you.  Also see the workshops page of this website for more information on other workshops like Reconnect: Essence happening in December.

Creativity Midwife

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Getting to The Rest
We are half way between Cape Town and Johannesberg (about 8 hours in either direction) half an hour off the N9 highway. We are an hour from Graaff-Reinet and 25 minutes from Nieu Bethesda.

To Drive: Email us for directions and check on the current state of the road and how your car will fare on the dirt roads.

Carpool to workshops: Join the event on the Facebook page and see who is keen to carpool. Email us to put you in touch with other drivers coming from your area.

Bus: Both Intercape and Translux stop in Graaff-Reinet. We will arrange to pick you up from the bus station and bring you to the farm directly or via a guest house (buses usually arrive at awkward times in the late or early hours.)
Email us to arrange this.

Fly: Catch a flight to Port Elizabeth and hire car to drive to the farm (this is a four hour drive).
Co-ordinate with other workshop participants who want to do the same. Email us for directions.


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