She Was Born Different but Met Her Challenges Head on To Take On the Role of a Lifetime

Tue Jul 13 2021

A lot of us would give up when faced with a challenge like this young woman. Belgian-born Sarah Talbi was born into an extremely challenging situation; she was born without arms. The world isn’t made for people who don’t have arms, and it can be extremely difficult for a person with a disability like this to thrive.

But Sarah wasn’t going to let anything stop her from living the life that she wanted. Irrespective of how she is born, Sarah lives an independent life and has a flourishing creative career. But her most important role has come into her life in recent years, and she’s proved that nothing can hold her back from living her dreams. There’s only one aspect of her life that causes her major frustration.

Her Parents Knew About Her Disability Before She Was Born

Sarah came into this world on September 23rd, 1982. She was born in Brussels, Belgium – a city which she would come to love so much she would choose to live there also as an independent adult. But there was one noticeable difference about Sarah compared with the other newborns – there were no arms attached to baby Sarah’s shoulders.

Sarah’s parents actually knew she would be born this way. “They found out about my disability when my mother was six months pregnant, which is quite late. It can be really difficult,” Sarah revealed on her Youtube channel. The fact that Sarah was born without arms means she isn’t an amputee – she had a congenital disability.

Why Was Sarah Born This Way?

Since Sarah isn’t an amputee, the doctors explained to her parents exactly how her disability came to be. “My disability is what we call congenital. Which is not the same as genetic… it is not hereditary,” Sarah explained. But it did happen while Sarah was just a little fetus in the womb.

“During my mother’s pregnancy… I developed with a malformation,” Sarah continued. However, doctors weren’t sure what caused a malformation to happen. “We still don’t have any explanation about my disability.” Sarah and her parents have just had to reckon with the fact they’ll never fully understand how Sarah came to be with way. But as you’ll see later, it didn’t hinder her one bit.

She Uses Her Feet Instead

While most children grow, they use their hands more and more. But in the case of Sarah, she grew accustomed to using her feet as an extra set of hands. Before long, she was doing everything that the other kids were doing with their hands, only with a different part of her body.

“It’s not difficult for me because it’s something I didn’t learn. For me, it’s just very intuitive,” Sarah explained. She elaborated on how she “was born like that… I do everything with my feet. This is something very natural for me, as I was born like that I just do things like a baby does with its hands, I imagine.”

Her Parents Doubted Her Future, But They Shouldn’t Have

Sarah’s parents loved her to bits, but they were scared about how challenging her life might be. “My parents were parents for the first time. They were worried about what would happen to me and how they will educate me and if it will be possible to go to school and to have a normal life. So it was quite difficult for them.” They couldn’t have expected she would go on to become what she did…

But little did they know they didn’t have to worry. Sarah ended up thriving in Belgium and had a great childhood. She loved her city, Brussels, not least of all because of its proximity to the sea! As Sarah once said: “I was born here, I have all my life here like my family, and it’s a really nice country to live [in.]”

She’s a Natural Creative

As Sarah matured, she started to focus more of her attention on her passion: painting. She uses her feet for everything, including her art, and nowadays is a fully-fledged artist who sells in exhibitions. “Painting for me is a passion. I learned at school. I do [it] only with my feet.”

Sarah even studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in St-Josse and took courses of Pierre Sentjens. “Painting for me is a passion,” she explained. “I learned at school. I do [it] only with my feet. This is the only difference with the other students. For me, it’s just normal to do it this way. I learned with painters, teachers, and it’s very interesting.”

Breaking Taboos: Dating and Disability

Dating can be tricky at the best of times, but it can be especially tricky to navigate when you have a disability. Sarah has opened up about her feelings around this topic, and it’s pretty enlightening. “From my experience, when I was young, I was not as confident as I am today. It takes a long time to feel comfortable with ourselves and our bodies and to let the other discover our body is also work [we need] to do with ourselves.”

She’s older and more confident now, but it’s still tricky. “Many people think that dating a person with a disability implies that you will become her or his nurse. So you will have to help her, to assist her, and that may be in some way it blocks some people to date someone with a disability. Because the definition of a person with a disability is a person with special needs.” That’s where Sarah’s proving those people wrong – she totally independent.

She’s Also a Qualified Translator

Believe it or not, Sarah actually had another source of income until recently. She’s fluent in French and English, and also speaks some Dutch. She worked as a licensed translator for many years thanks to her multilingual talents, and as you can see below gets by just fine on a laptop.

“Typing e-mails, editing my content, creating through my laptop with my keyboard and mouse is totally possible :)” Sarah explained to her curious followers. All she needs to do is set her keyboard at a height that she reaches with her toes, and away she types!

A Regular Domestic Goddess

Almost anything that other people can do independently with their arms and hands, Sarah can do using her feet. That includes household chores like cleaning, vacuuming, and doing the laundry. In this photo, we can see Sarah loading up some clean clothes for the dryer!

She captioned this Instagram photo: “Just another day in my life.” Ultimately, that’s what Sarah is trying to show everyone who follows her. She has adapted to do things differently but still gets the same stuff done. Even mundane, everyday chores that people often assume she can’t manage by herself.

Disability Made Her Stronger

Sarah sees her obstacles in life as a stepping stone to making her a stronger person. When asked about the impact disability has had on her life, she responded: “Yes, it’s difficult. Of course, we cannot say it’s easy to not have arms. I think when you have a disability it’s not only about facing your disability it’s also about learning to take advantage of the situation and just to manage yourself to use this difficulty in other situations.”

Sarah shared some wise words about how her disability has helped her face problems: “My disability is difficult, but when I face problems, my problems seem to me not that difficult because I know how to face my difficulties. So yes, living without arms can be difficult, but the consequences of living without arms learn me how to manage a problem, how to face a challenge, how to face a problem, how to manage a situation.”

Mr. Sarah Talbi?

Sarah is incredibly secretive about her private life, but most believe her to be married. She never confirms or deny’s this, however. Whoever “he” is, he’s not posted anywhere on Sarah’s social media, Youtube channel, or even mentioned in interviews and podcast appearances.

If you’re looking for a photograph of Mr. Sarah Talbi, you’re out of luck. But if you wanted evidence that there is, or at the very least was, a special someone in her life, just keep scrolling. As you’ll see on the next page, Sarah had some pretty amazing news to share with her audience four years ago…

A Little One on the Way!

Sarah was going to become a mother of her own! It’s something she had always wanted to do and, despite what her doubters thought, she was completely capable of caring for and raising a child. In this photo, she’s nine months pregnant with a baby girl and in the middle of labor pains.

Sarah captioned this image: “I remember this day, at hospital just some hours before I gave birth to my angel. I was as worried as excited. Being a mom was the major challenge of my life, limits only exist in our mind.” Because Sarah’s disability is congenital and not genetic, no one expected her child to be born without arms as well.

Her Motherhood Journey Begins

Sarah ended up giving birth to a beautiful baby girl called Lilia, who didn’t have the same congenital disability as her mother. Sarah had always wanted to be a mother, and now she was in her mid-thirties she was finally living out her lifelong dreams. And she wasn’t relying on anyone to do all the heavy lifting.

Sarah bathed, cooked, fed, clothed, and changed her baby as any parent would. Because she’s so talented at using her feet like hands, she can do just about anything that any other mom or dad could do. But there were hiccups in the road, as you’ll come to find out…

Sometimes It’s Hard To feel Grateful

Just because Sarah is very independent, doesn’t mean she doesn’t get stuck from time to time. She once recalled a particularly frustrating moment as a new mother: “It was a day my baby was four months and I wanted to carry her and I couldn’t. It was the first time that I really felt frustrated. All the other times in my life I just accept the fact that yes, I need help and that’s just the way it is.”

“Sometimes I give myself the right to feel angry or sad. But with my baby, it was more difficult to accept.” In the end, Sarah had to call someone to pick up her crying baby and put her on Sarah’s chest. She immediately stopped crying, and all was well in the end. But becoming a mother definitely heightens those challenging moments with her disability.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Sarah would have loved her unconditionally and cared for her daughter however she was born. She relayed a touching story of what happened the night that she herself was born: “The day I was born something really unbelievable happened. All the hospital team… was a little bit shocked to see me. The first question everyone asked was ‘do you want to put your baby in an institute of disabled babies.'”

“My mom asked her ‘do you have children?’ and she said no. ‘Have you given birth to a baby?’ and she responded to her no. So my mum told her ‘so please don’t tell me what I have to do. The day you can feel what it is to be a mom I would maybe consider listening to your advice but in the meantime just shut up!'” I guess we know where Sarah gets her fighting spirit!

Sarah’s Unusual Object

Sarah has a great solution for feeding herself. She doesn’t just have one way to chow down, but two! “Not having two arms gave me the option to create two ways to eat.” One way is by using her foot to hold cutlery, seeing as she has fantastic precision. “Each time I go to a restaurant, people are first surprised, then they can’t stop smiling at me until they even don’t look at me anymore haha. Just smile to life and life will smile to you.”

But she has a special table-top device that she brings with her to restaurants – after all, what if she’s wearing a skirt! She calls it her “unusual object,” but it’s actually pretty ingenious. She simply uses her mouth to hold the fork and pick up food off of her plate, and then places the fork on the magnetized spinning object. Then with her chin, she just spins the fork in her direction, and voila! It’s a piece of cake.

Working the Algorithm: Becoming an Internet Sensation

Sarah decided to share aspects of her life with the internet, in order to better educate others on what living without arms is like. Now at 38 years old, she has over 45,000 followers on Instagram and over 200,000 subscribers to her Youtube channel! That’s no small feat.

Sarah certainly likes to keep herself busy. “Auto shooting with a tripod while editing a video on YouTube after a day of painting and an evening with baby. I love feeling productive and inspired to create and share with you all,” she captioned one of her Instagram posts. Who said being an influencer was easy!

She’s Got Some Serious Knife Skills

Sarah has a passion for food and cooking, and not having arms doesn’t hold her back one bit in the kitchen. She’s a pro at using her feet as most of us use our hands, for things like washing, chopping, stirring, and whatever else. Just look at her cooking up a storm for her baby girl!

As we can see, she has a special kitchen chair that’s a little taller than most, and it helps get Sarah into a good angle for handling things on the kitchen countertops. She’s so adept at using her feet and toes, that she even has cooking tutorials up on her Youtube channel, showing how she goes about it each step of the way.

Morning Mischief

“You know you are a mother when a little child jumps on you on Sunday morning,” Sarah wrote on Instagram on Mother’s Day. For Sarah, it’s also a day to reflect on how grateful she is that she’s been able to achieve all of her dreams. Almost all of them, anyway, as you’ll come to find out.

“Playing with my girl is always very funny,” she told her followers. “Being a parent implies that you are always a little child who only wants to have fun… It’s all about keeping a balance between responsibility and craziness,” she wrote. She definitely looks like she’s enjoying herself.

There Can Be Small Limitations But Nothing Major

This photo shows that even when it comes to getting ready to leave the house, Sarah’s totally got it covered. But there can be limitations to what she can do at times, as she once stated that she’s not very good at doing zippers up. Luckily, her daughter’s now old enough to do them herself.

One thing that Sarah get’s asked a lot is whether or not armless people can use the bathroom by themselves. And to that she says… of course they can. We’re not going to go into the specifics, but as Sarah said herself: “Don’t forget that armless girls have abnormal flexibility!”

Here Comes the Aeroplane!

Even when it comes to spoon-feeding her little one, Sarah’s got it covered. Of course, she’s not using a hand but her feet, and she does it remarkably well. Whether or not there is someone special in her life, she’s doing all the mom stuff completely on her own.

She wrote as a caption on one of her Instagram posts: “Being a parent always makes me realize how much little things are enjoyable.” Her appreciative outlook really comes across in her photos, as she always has a calm and content look on her face.

Adapting to a New Life at Home

2020 was a strange year for us all, and Sarah was no exception. She’s used to getting a lot done in a day, but under lockdown restrictions, she found herself adapting to a whole new way of life. “The current situation of the world is not easy. Everything is closed, cultural places and activities stopped,” she told her followers.

She continued: “There’s nothing to do but maybe it’s a kind of opportunity to enjoy the calm of the city while parks and streets are less crowded…” One thing that’s been especially challenging for Sarah is not being able to do her regular exercise routines. She loves the water and before the pandemic, would stay fit by swimming all the time.

Rolling Out the Yoga Mat

So just how has Sarah been keeping fit from home? Maintaining a strong and healthy body is incredibly important for the Belgian artist, and she knew she had to come up with a new workout routine now over the pandemic period. One of the things she started investing more time in is Yoga.

“Being a woman and taking care of myself is a gift,” Sarah declared on social media. We for one are glad to see that she steals some time in the day for self-care. “Practicing a sport or an activity without arms [reminds] me how much the body is powerful. If I can you can…”

The One Thing Sarah Wishes She Could Do Alone

There’s one thing that Sarah regrets not being able to accomplish solo – and that’s traveling. It’s her biggest frustration, as in every other aspect she sees herself as being without limitations. It’s the only part of her life in which she needs to be accompanied by someone else who hands arms and hands.

That’s likely due to the fact that when you’re traveling, all sorts of problems can arise and you can never be too sure. But seeing as it’s one of Sarah’s favorite things to do, she chooses to do it anyway. One of her self-confessed favorite things to do is simply reading a book on the beach. As she once said, “Spend time chasing the sun, not some perfect body shape.”

You’ll Have to Go to Belgium For a Sarah Talbi Original

As her internet fame has been growing consistently, so has the interest in her artwork. But she’s surprisingly exclusive about who can get their hands on an original Sarah Talbi piece. Perhaps that’s something that will change with time. She admitted: “My paintings are for sale during exhibitions; I do exhibitions here in Belgium.”

But you won’t find her stuff for sale online. She’s inspired by her travels, nature, forms, colors, and shadows, and is largely self-taught. With that being said, she has frequently attended lectures and classes by art professors in order for her to branch out her artistic approach.

Showering With Just Her Feet

“Showering without arms is among my most frequently asked questions,” Sarah wrote on her Instagram. So how does she manage it? Actually, it’s not that challenging for her. Her feet are used to release her hair from its hair tie, take off her clothes (including pulling down her pants,) and turn on the shower!

Once Sarah’s in the shower, she takes a seat and gets to scrubbing by holding her sponge with her toes. She can even rinse and rub shampoo through her hair with ease just by using her feet. Sarah even went on Youtube to show the world her showering process, and show how doable it is as a woman without arms.

Putting a Bra on Is a Piece of Cake

And Sara even has an ingenious way of getting into her bra every day. It involves laying her bra on a table and fastening it with her feet before it goes on. Luckily, Sarah’s toes are more than capable of handling that. Once it’s fastened she put the bra over her head.

And then it’s a question of wriggling the bra down from her neck to her torso, using her feet to guide it down. Voila! She is supported and everything is in its place. And the best thing of all is that the whole thing takes less than a couple of minutes to do.

Booked, Busy, and Blessed

Sarah has spoken about how she’s at her absolute happiest in life when she’s really busy and life is very full. She proves to the world that just because she has a disability, it doesn’t mean that she’s not ambitious, determined, and very, very capable.

She posted this photo to her Instagram with the caption: “Auto shooting with a tripod while editing a video on YouTube after a day of painting and an evening with baby.” For a lot of us, we’d end up feeling exhausted and drained. But not Sarah: “I love feeling productive and inspired to create and share with you all. “

It’s Time For Mommy To Get Away

Sarah only recently came back from a vacation in Brazil. She went without her little one in order to have some quality mommy time. Judging from her photos, Sarah’s extremely adventurous and doesn’t let her disability hold her back from living out her travel dreams.

She even used her trip as content for her channel, bringing her Youtube followers along on her journey through vlogs and updates. At one point, she went to a holistic healing class that was full of other women, listening and lifting each other up.

Switching It Up

Sarah’s trip to Brazil has been so exciting and freeing, that she even decided to switch up her hairstyle while she was out there. She went to a hairdresser and had her thick brunette locks braided. Which not only looks good but also helps keep her cooler in the hot weather.

And of course, she brought her followers along by posting this photo on Instagram. “Mon look brésilien. My Brazilian look,” she told everyone. Not only does her new style look nice, but that shade of orange is totally gorgeous on her. That’s totally her color!

Back Home To Baby

After roughly a month away and having the best time in South America, she returned home and back to her adorable daughter. The first thing they did was go to a restaurant since restrictions had only recently been lifted and it was the first time they could eat in a public place in a year!

“Enjoying being out in a restaurant with baby,” she captioned this photo, before adding another post about her daughter. “Since her birth my princess has never been to [the] nursery. I am very proud that her socialization at the summer internship is going so well.”

Instagram VS Reality

“Instagram VS Reality,” Sarah captioned this photo. But we think she looks just as photo-ready as usual! Even in her “bad” photos Sarah still looks amazing. We love seeing these glimpses into her personal style, as well as those moments when her sense of humor comes out.

“Spring is in the air and optimism and creativity [is] too,” she captioned another image from this quick photo shoot. But that’s probably because it means the weather is good enough for Sarah to start going to the park again: “Sitting in the grass enjoying the sunshine is probably one of my top 5 happiest things to do.”

When Sarah Lets Her Guard Down

Painting is probably the only time Sarah really gives herself space to feel vulnerable. A while ago she wrote about how “when you paint you give a part of yourself that will never come back to you.” But ultimately, she’s living out her biggest dream by continuing to paint and show in exhibitions.

“Another day in making my dreams come true… Being an artist is one of my favorite roles,” she once posted on Instagram. This photo was posted over lockdown and came with the caption: “I generally prefer watercolor but here’s my first step in acrylic at home and I really enjoyed it. This lockdown is a good opportunity to discover new skills within ourselves.” She’s constantly on a path to improvement.

Not Ready For My Close Up!

Sarah had a friend take some new photos for her socials when this candid moment was captured. “When you fix your hair during a shoot and it’s finally the best picture of all haha,” Sarah captioned. She was out during her favorite time of day with her little one at the time.

“As a full-time mom, I like enjoying the freshness of the morning with baby. When it is not raining…” she revealed to her fans. But at the time the world was still in lockdown, and Sarah was actually breaking the rules by taking off her mask: “When you are in lockdown and realize that being outside without a mask is forbidden… So is [this] picture the promotion of a disobedience act?” It might just be.

Chosen Family Is Where It’s At

It can definitely seem like Sarah’s too busy for a social life. With the painting, her Youtube channel, her Instagram account, and being a full-time mother, it really doesn’t leave a lot of time for seeing friends. But you’ll be happy to know that from time to time, Sarah finds a way.

In this photo, Sarah has taken her little one to visit one of her very good friends at their house. Luckily, her friend has a kid to play with too. She captioned this post, “Friends is the family we choose,” and we definitely think she’s right. You don’t have to be biologically related to be family!

Where Is Dad?

Sarah made an entire Youtube video addressing the frequent questions people had about Lilia’s papa. Where was he? Was he in his daughter’s life? Does Sarah do everything completely alone? “Don’t worry. Lilia’s father is 100% present for his daughter,” she reassured her audience.

Sarah continued: “So, there is no problem whatsoever. One should be aware of their limits, I know mine.” She added that she “would not have a baby alone, I would not be mindless and raise a child alone, given my situation.” It’s good to know that Sarah has a good relationship with her daughter’s father, even if they aren’t together as a couple.

Keeping Things Spotless

A common misconception people have about Sarah is that she needs other people’s help to clean her home. But when she uploaded this Youtube video she proved all her doubters wrong. She got out a vacuum cleaner and showed everyone how she maintains clean floors.

“I love filming videos of myself doing things that I do not need help with doing, because I enjoy not needing help, and such moments are very important to me,” Sarah said. When she needs to hoover awkward places like underneath her coffee table, she sits on the floor for better control.

Sometimes You’re Just Not In the Mood

It’s not just vacuuming that Sarah does. She can more or less clean everything that it’s important to maintain, and that includes surfaces. She uses a spray and wipes down tables just like any of us do in our homes. This just goes to show – we really don’t have any excuse for not keeping things squeaky clean!

But also like the rest of us, she has days when she can’t be bothered to keep everything as tidy and clean as usual. In the comments section of her Youtube video, she admitted “I also don’t always like cleaning haha,” just so people didn’t think she considers herself some domestic goddess. Sarah just does her best.

Self-Defense Is An Essential Skill

Sarah took her audience with her to a self-defense class, so that people can see that even someone born without arms is more than capable of putting up a fight. She may not have arms to grab someone with, but that also means she has two limbs less to worry about!

She demonstrated just how feisty she can be in the face of an attacker by getting the instructor on the floor on his back. All we know is, we wouldn’t want to be in the instructor’s position. Amazingly, Sarah also showed us footage of her traveling to her self-defense class, riding on the back of a motorbike!

Keeping It Cute

Sarah’s gaining more prominence on TikTok, the video-sharing app. On it, she’s been able to show and teach the public about how she does certain tasks, however big or small. And we just love to see the skills she’s adapted to everyday situations that we take for granted.

Sarah’s a total pro at applying makeup to her face. Foundation, eye shadow, mascara – you name it. In these video stills, we can see her applying lip balm to her lips from a pot, not a tube. And we can also see Sarah painting her toenails a gorgeous shade of red.

Freshly Cooked Meals For Sarah and Lilia

One thing everyone should know about Sarah is that she’s a total foodie, and loves making her own dishes from scratch. Whether she’s baking a cake or preparing a stir-fry, Sarah is completely capable of preparing and cooking meals at home for her and Lilia.

As we can see in this photo, she’s just washed a bunch of green beans and is sitting on the dining room table getting ready to cut them up. Sitting on the table is just easier for Sarah, but she also sometimes takes a tall chair to the kitchen and chops food from there.

Incredible Kitchen Skills

Here we can see Sarah preparing vegetables from her kitchen island. There’s literally nothing she can’t do it seems. On the photo on the left, she’s chopping up sweet potatoes – and everyone knows how firm they are when they’re raw! The way she’s holding the knife may look unsafe to us, but Sarah’s completely used to it.

In the photo on the right, Sarah uses a stainless steel peeler to peel away cucumber skin. Vegetable peelers can be dangerous to use at the best of times if you aren’t holding it right, so just imagine how much skill Sarah has to use one with only her toes.

It Takes Sarah a Single Minute

Some people may be surprised to hear that despite having no arms and hands, Sarah doesn’t take a long time to complete tasks whatsoever. In fact, one of her followers admitted: “Honestly, I wouldn’t be any quicker with both hands, you make it look so simple and easy.”

In one video, Sarah showed people what her nighttime routine is like after she comes back home in the evenings. And truly, it takes her one minute to take her shoes off, unzip her coat and hang it up, put her face mask away, hang up her bag, and wash her feet in the sink!

Painting During Lockdown

Sarah has a particular interest in landscape painting, especially in watercolor. But during the months she’s been spending at home due to the pandemic, she’s been spending more time painting the faces of people she knows. After all, it’s been harder to actually see people she loves face to face.

And Sarah is totally aware of how amazing it is that she can paint beautifully with her feet. “Art is the only way that erases the differences. Who can guess this painting was made by feet?” she once asked on Instagram. She later also stated “Look at me just like you look at my paintings,” – we love how sassy she is!

Lockdown With Lilia

Since Lilia and Sarah have had to stay at home during the pandemic, you could easily imagine that things might be difficult for Sarah. While we’re sure she must have had some ups and downs, she appears to be loving life more than ever. We wish we had Sarah’s positivity.

“Enjoying life with simple joys is a philosophy my daughter is teaching me every day,” Sarah stated, adding, “Lockdown with my baby is always full of surprise.” Sarah has previously admitted that her favorite time of day is when she and Lilia get to play, and there’s been plenty of time for that over the last year!