The WHY behind Finn & Mama
Hi! I'm Sarah Malm, the face and artist behind Finn & Mama. I thought I would take a little time to share who I am and why I have built Finn & Mama into what it is today.
It isn't easy to put my art "out there" for everyone to see, but I've been doing it now for the past five or so years, so it has become eas-IER, but it is never easy. It is even more difficult to share with you the WHY behind what I do.
A little over 20 years ago, I got married. I met my then-husband while attending a Lutheran seminary as we were both preparing to be pastors. I was 27 years old and was anxious to start my career and soon start a family. To make a VERY long story short, starting a family was not to be in the cards for me. It has to do in part because of what I call undiagnosed infertility, depression, and in part to do with the timing of life choices.
When a move in 2011 brought us to another small town in rural Minnesota, we decided it was maybe best if I took a break from working and focused on my health. At that time I met a new friend who introduced me to stamping and it was like a whole new world opened up for me. I had always been creative and interested in all different kinds of artistic expression, but there was something about the timing and also the friendship shared that made this hobby take hold.
I slowly began to collect stamps and supplies. I scoured eBay for deals on the equipment I would need. Almost weekly I was getting together with my friend to work on cards whether it was just the two of us or with a group. Here I had found something to feed my soul. I began to spend a few hours every day practicing my new hobby.
It was around this same time that I began to seek out support specifically to accept the fact that I was never going to be a mother. Being a mom was something that I had dreamed about since I was a child. I think most girls do. We have our baby dolls and we mother them. We grow up to be middle or high school girls who babysit and imagine what it will be like to have our own, at least I did. My own mom did daycare in our home. There were other kids around besides my two brothers and myself--ALL THE TIME, or so it seemed. When I was old enough, I would babysit for some of those same families when they needed someone in the evening or on the weekend. It gave me great joy. I loved those kids.
So, when I began dating seriously as an adult, one of the first things I did was imagine what our children would be like, were we to have some. Within days or weeks of being newly married, we discussed what our favorite names were for a girl or a boy. I don't think I have ever shared these publicly before, but if I had a girl I wanted to name her
Emilia Jane, and a boy Maxwell Avery. Emilia after my grandfather, Herbert Emil Malm (photo left, cut into an old scrapbook). We always celebrated our birthdays together when he was living, since they were only two days apart. Jane after my second cousin on my Dad's side who was my age and a long-time pen pal from New York, and also felt like the sister I never had. (She has since passed away from breast cancer, which would have made it even more meaningful.) Maxwell was the name of a doctor who had been instrumental in my ex-husband's early life and health, and Avery a name I had loved for a long time. I held those names with so much hope in my heart for a long time.
Where does one go when seeking support for something that people don't even seem comfortable talking about? People don't really talk about being childless. I can't tell you how many times, as a pastor and pastor's wife, I was asked if I had children. It was difficult to say, "no, I don't," because then came the awkward silence. People don't know what to say, OR they say something completely inappropriate (read more about that here).
For lack of anywhere else to turn, I turned to Google and Facebook. I found a community of women (and occasionally a few men) on Facebook who gather under a common label of "Childless Not By Choice." It is there I have been able to share experiences, conversation, tears and frustration over this heart-wrenching reality of life with people I have never met in person. I consider some of these women best friends. They have been my life-line in so many instances when I thought I couldn't go on. No one will ever understand they way THEY understand.
When I left my husband in 2014, I thought about giving up on stamping. It was such a time of chaos and upheaval. I had no idea what my future was going to be in 30 days, let alone a year or five years. But I found that being creative helped to keep me sane and grounded. In the last year or two, I decided to take this seriously and throw myself into creating art and building a business. There is a LONG way to go, but I love creating and I enjoy the challenge of trying to build a business out of it. I keep threatening to quit the business part because it is hard work, but something keeps propelling me forward. I haven't quite figured out what that is yet. But, I won't ever stop creating art.
It is my CNBC family (more info here) and Finn & Mama that have kept me going through the other struggles and challenges of life. I am thankful for my new life and partner, Stephen (truly my better half), who supports me and shares in my love of art. My new goal is to learn drawing and watercolor so that I can add that to my repertoire. Someday I would like to design stamps so that others can use them to create artwork in the same way I started.
I may not be able to give new life through my womb, but I will give new life through art--creating something new to love and enjoy.
If you are interested in learning more about what it is like to live Childless Not By Choice, please consider browsing the World Childless Week (coming up September 10-16, 2018) website and the resources found there. This site is created and managed by some of my CNBC sisters. If you feel so inclined, they would also appreciate it if you would share their site with your friends and family, in order to share this support with other CNBC folks who may be suffering in silence. There is an option to donate to support this site as well, if you are able. Thank you so much for reading and listening!
If you are interested in supporting me and and my future work at Finn & Mama as a patron in an ongoing way, please visit my Patreon site here. Thank you!!