Sarah Kovac was born with Anthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC), a congenital birth defect that left her with arms she could barely use. She's learned to use her feet to drive a car, type on a computer, prepare meals, apply makeup, and change diapers. Kovac even typed her book, In Capable Arms: Living a Life Embraced by Grace, with her toe. She hopes that her story and ability to maintain her faith in the face of difficulty will encourage others. Here, we discuss her battles and her book.
RNS: As you were growing up, what would you identify as the biggest challenges about growing up with AMC?
SK: I wouldn’t say the biggest challenge was the physical aspect of the disability, but rather the emotional insecurities that I had to learn to overcome. I believed I wasn’t good enough and that people didn’t like me. It was all in my head, but it took me years to begin to overcome this things. That was way more crippling than any physical disability.
RNS: How has living without the full use of your arms shaped you into the woman you are today?
SK: It has helped me tap into some critical thinking skills and emotional coping skills that I might not have had without it. For example, being able to discipline my son was a real challenge because he is physically stronger than me. I had to learn how to get him on my side and be able to work with him instead of just picking him up and getting him to do what I wanted. I have had to learn to accomplish things emotionally and intellectually instead of just physically.
RNS: What is it that most surprises people about your abilities?
That is hard to say because I'm not sure they always tell me. What surprises many people is that how natural it is for me to use my feet for things normally done with one's hands. Even when I was pregnant and was able to still drive with my feet up on the steering wheel. It is not something that I think about, and it surprises others that such things aren't a big struggle for me.
RNS: I have seen videos online of you diapering your baby. It is stunning. What other things do you do with your feet that might surprise people?
SK: My whole book was typed by toe. I am blessed to be married to a man who cooks, but in the beginning of our relationship he didn’t cook much. He actually started to cook because I would choose vegetarian meals and he wanted to eat meat with his potatoes. But I can dice up a tomato. If something is high up in a cabinet—my poor parents would have a heart attack—I stand on one foot on a rotating roller chair and reach into the cabinet with the other foot. People think that reaching into high cabinets and and stuff is a stretch; no pun intended.
RNS: What are you able to do with your hands?
SK: My hands pretty much do what you could do if you had a hook at the end of your arm. Whatever you could do with that hook is pretty much what I can do with my hands. Everything else has to be feet.
RNS: The challenges that some people face aren't physical, but emotional, psychological, or something less visible. I am wondering how the message in your book relates to people facing different challenges?
SK: I actually wrote my book for them because a lot of people look at me and say, “You are so inspiring to have overcome your situation.” I think, I would much rather deal with what I have than to have been raised in an abusive home or experience some other challenges. I've had a lot of things going for me that made overcoming the physical stuff a lot easier. The experiences I've had are unique but everyone has challenges that are unique to them.
RNS: That makes sense. You have written about battling the desire to be perfect. A lot of people can relate to that. What has your journey taught you about letting go of that thirst for perfection?
SK: With the cooking thing, it would take me an hour longer than it would for him. At a certain point, he said, “Look, it is easier for me. Why don’t you just let me do it?” I had to swallow my pride, but I've realized there are some things that I am strong in and others that I need help with. When something difficult and somebody else can be that strength for me, I need to be willing to swallow my pride and let things go and let my expectations of myself change as they need to.