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.”
The Fears and Doubts of Her Parents
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.”
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, 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.
“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.