This month we are putting the spotlight on Sabrina Mallia, a mother-of-two, whose world was turned upside down in 2013, as she left everything here in Malta to travel to Greece with her partner of 5 years, professional footballer Andrew Hogg.
Sunglasses, bracelet, towel: all Pippa Toledo Design Studio; One-piece swimsuit and head-band: Carla Grima Atelier; Photography: Marvin Grech; Hair and make-up: Alfie’s Hair and Beauty’s Salon; Location: Inhawi Hostel, Balluta.
Here at BuzyMummy we love to give our featured “mum in the spotlight” the star treatment because let’s face it, being a mum is wonderful, however treating ourselves to some well–deserved pampering doesn’t normally fit very comfortably into our very busy schedule.
So in collaboration with Carla Grima Atelier, Pippa Toledo Design Studio and Alfie’s Hair and Beauty Salon and thanks to the fabulous photographer Marvin Grech, we created these magical photographs taken at the charming Inhawi Hostel, in Balluta”.
Sabrina is one of those rare women who has drop-dead gorgeous looks, an incredible sense of humour and a “keep-it-real” attitude which is both endearing and hilarious at the same time. She is also a natural in front of the camera and even though she insists she is not a model, she rocked our photoshoot and gave professional models a run for their money.
We met for a drink at the “The Neighbourhood café” at Inhawi for our interview. She turns up looking as stylish as ever wearing a dark grey maxi-ensemble. She smiles “The kids are asleep”. “Lucky you” I say, since mine were as close to being asleep as Malta is to taking a break from construction. We settle on one of the tables, order some wine and start chatting.
What made you move to Greece in the first place?
“Andrew left Malta in 2012, to play in Cyprus, after which he moved to Lesvos, Greece In 2013 to play with “AEL Kalloni”. In the beginning I was mostly based in Malta and used to travel to and fro, to be with Andrew. Then at one point In August 2013, Andrew took me aside and asked me a very important question.” She laughs, “At the time I thought he was going to propose! Which freaked me out because co-ordinating a wedding whilst he was playing football in Greece was not something I could imagine doing at the time. Instead, he told me he wanted to start a family.”
Sabrina admits it was something she also hoped for, especially since she had been told by doctors in the past that she may have difficulties conceiving. In fact she warned Andrew about this, saying it may take a while to happen; they agreed that if they would not get pregnant, then they would get a puppy instead.
She laughs “Thankfully we were blessed enough to get pregnant immediately since, even though I love animals I am extremely unlucky with pets.”
Earrings and bracelet: Pippa Toledo Design Studio; One-piece swimsuit and kaftan: Carla Grima Atelier; Photography: Marvin Grech; Hair and make-up: Alfie’s Hair and Beauty’s Salon; Iced-coffee smoothie, courtesy of ‘The Neighbourhood Café’ at Inhawi Hostel, Balluta.
So you officially moved to Greece when you were pregnant?
“Yes, getting pregnant pushed me to move officially to Greece. This meant leaving my business behind which was not an easy decision, as I have been self-employed as a nail-technician since the age of 21. In fact someone actually gave me grief about my decision telling me: ‘You are giving up your business to chase a man?’ I told her I am not chasing a man but I am choosing to be with THE man. And I have absolutely no regrets.”
Sabrina in Lesvos Greece
“We settled in a beautiful home, in the mountains overlooking the beach. Even though I was happy to be close to Andrew, I knew I wanted to give birth in Malta.” Sabrina admits that the hospital in Lesvos was sub-standard and miles apart from the state-of-the-art hospital we have in Malta. “We do not realise how lucky we are here in Malta to have such excellent free healthcare facilities”. She eventually gave birth in May to their first-born “Alice” in Malta in May 2014.
“Psychologically I was in a mess since I was worried about the health of my unborn baby and also petrified to pass on the virus to Alice…”
How was it raising a new-born in Greece away from your family and friends?
“Well, all in all I cannot really complain, however I must admit the weekends were rough. Every weekend Andrew flew outside Lesvos for games so I was left alone to fend with a new-born baby. There were weekends when I honestly didn’t even have time to have a shower. It was really full-on.”
Sunglasses, earrings, bracelet, deckchair: all Pippa Toledo Design Studio; One-piece swimsuit and palazzo pants: Carla Grima Atelier; Photography: Marvin Grech; Hair and make-up: Alfie’s Hair and Beauty’s Salon.
You then got pregnant with your second baby right?
“Yes around 7 months after Alice was born we were pregnant again. Even though it was unplanned, it was great news, however it made the experience even tougher since my second pregnancy came with some complications. I was ordered to rest from 15 weeks onwards which was not really possible while taking care of a baby.”
“One of the low points I remember was when I contracted a really bad virus. I was literally throwing up every 45 minutes and had to take care of Alice whilst pregnant and alone. Psychologically I was in a mess since I was worried about the health of my unborn baby and also petrified to pass on the virus to Alice. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that Andrew was flying back that evening. I thought to myself at least I should survive till then.” Unfortunately there was a bad storm in Crete and Andrew’s flight was cancelled and postponed to 24 hours later. Knowing the state she was in, Andrew called a neighbour asking him to check in with Sabrina. “When you are away from home, these moments scare you straight and it was a wake- up-call for me; that when I was alone, I needed to have someone I could call.”
What was the biggest surprise about becoming a mother?
She thinks for a moment. “Well for me the biggest surprise was how naturally it all came to me, I never thought I was the maternal type however as soon as Alice was born it’s like something switched on in me that was never there before.”
“…I saw a change in my character. From a carefree, laid back person I switched into this perfectionist stress-ball when I was around the kids…”
What has been the most challenging aspect of motherhood?
“Breastfeeding my second baby was one of the most challenging experiences. I had had no problems with my first-born and in fact planned that I would breastfeed my second baby until she was a year. The reality is I didn’t go past 2 months. Physically it was awful and Georgie suffered from a lot of reflux which made it even worse.”
“Another challenging aspect of pregnancy for me was dealing with extreme hair loss. It was so bad that my doctor actually told me that I was suffering from stress and that the hair loss was not only hormonal. He told me that it would be highly unlikely that it would grow back which made me even more stressed! Thankfully it in the end, it did.”
Earrings, bracelet, handbag: all at Pippa Toledo Design Studio; Crina dress: Carla Grima Atelier; Photography: Marvin Grech; Hair and make-up: Alfie’s Hair and Beauty’s Salon; Nails by NailsbySbrii.
What has been the best moment for you as a mother?
She smiles and thinks for a few seconds, “There are so many great moments. I think one of the best ones was when I recently saw Alice spontaneously kissing Georgie after a long fight. It was so sweet to see her show love to her sister, though after the kiss, she cheekily went to sit in her sister’s bouncer. It was hilarious.”
Gorgeous family: Andrew, Alice, Sabrina and Georgie.
What about the effect of becoming parents on your relationship?
“Wow. What can I say, the word that comes to mind is ‘warzone’”, she laughs. “I think for most parents, when kids come along it puts an added pressure on the relationship. For me I saw a change in my character. From a carefree, laid back person I switched into this perfectionist stress-ball when I was around the kids. The thing is that when you have two children so close in age and are a stay-at-home mum, routine and practicality are key to making the day easier.”
“It is funny, when we go out on a date, just me and Andrew, the moment we drop off the kids, I am back to my silly self. Which is why I find it is important to make time for date nights. Thankfully it is easier now that we are back in Malta since we are lucky to have help from our families.”
What is the best thing you every bought as a mother?
She laughs “I call it a ‘shush-er’. It is basically a white-noise machine which helps babies fall asleep. Anything that helps babies sleep in my book is great” she giggles.
“From a gorgeous sea-view, the view from my window became full of sadness and despair. I used to witness the boats coming in with immigrants from Turkey and it was absolutely heart-breaking.”
One piece of advice for any new mum?
“Ok I have a tip when it comes to cooking for the family. So you know when you are weaning your kids, their food mostly comprises of puree’s? When you have any leftover food, all you need to do is add some rice or barley, parmesan and parsley to the puree and there you have it a nice risotto for you and your man.”(good one! :))
Why did you then decide to move back to Malta?
“Well there were two reasons actually. The first was related to the immigration crisis we are currently in. From a gorgeous sea-view, the view from my window became full of sadness and despair. I used to witness the boats coming in with immigrants from Turkey and it was absolutely heart-breaking”. I asked her what she saw and Sabrina broke into tears explaining the horrors of what she saw. “The things I saw, the families, the children, the death. I just can’t un-see.”
Sabrina couldn’t take the feeling of helplessness so she took action and managed to raise over €9,000 working with a Maltese organisation “Help The Children Of Hal Far” through Facebook. “The one positive aspect of this experience was witnessing the generosity of the people who donated and the volunteer organisations that were incredibly organised and brave.”
Selfie:Andrew and Sabrina
So what was the second reason for moving back?
“Well Andrew renewed his contract with AEL Kalloni, however there were issues which led us to suddenly taking the decision to come back in February this year. We literally packed 3 years of our lives in 2 days. We had 14 luggages. It was crazy.”
What is the best part of being back in Malta?
“Being able to meet with my friends regularly and also seeing my children build a bond with my family is priceless.”
What are your plans for the future?
“Well, now that I am back in Malta, I am focusing on my business again and I am working on opening my own salon in Malta in the coming months. It was Andrew’s idea actually. He is very wary of the fact that I left everything I took 10 years to build, to move and start a family with him and now that we are back he is my biggest supporter, helping and encouraging me to get my own salon going.” For more information join the Facebook group “NailsbySbrii”
A behind- the-scenes peek of our photoshoot at ‘Inhawi‘.
Interview by Davinia Mallia Pulé