Listen to Shakira as she chats to Gemma about why being a parent can be empowering – and how she overcame her mental-health battles.
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"Motherhood is empowering"
When Shakira Akabusi’s health put an end to her singing career, she quickly had to grieve her old path and find another.
Now a fitness influencer, podcaster, pre- and postnatal specialist, and mum of 4, she works to break the silence surrounding new motherhood and women’s health.
For her, moving her body is “non-negotiable”, especially when it comes to juggling a busy family life and keeping on top of her mental wellbeing.
With our host, Dr Gemma Newman, Shakira explains how she’s overcome parental expectations and postnatal OCD - showing families everywhere that they can be strong.
What we talk about in the episode...
Other positives came out of tough times. Losing her voice was one of the first times Shakira experienced something being out of her control.
During post-surgery recovery, she had three weeks’ where she wasn’t allowed to speak a single word – finding it almost meditative. ‘I realised the power of quiet and silence. Even if it’s just taking a breath when your child throws a tantrum. So often we think power and strength is loud – and it can be. But so is listening and taking a moment to stop. It can calm a situation and allow people to be heard.’
Losing her voice isn’t the only big hurdle Shakira has overcome. She is open about her struggles with OCD – at one point, she says, it took her three hours to make the seven-minute walk from London’s Brick Lane to Liverpool Street ‘because of all the stopping and tapping and walking over this brick in the road. It was all-consuming, it had complete control of me.’
Crisis point came when she travelled, during her second pregnancy, with her partner and son to get a flight to California, and couldn’t make it from the taxi to the airport. That was another turning point: her realisation her son was aware of her condition. ‘Now it was harming my family. I didn’t want him growing up with those same feelings.’
She says she’s now 99.9% recovered from her OCD anxiety. ‘I don’t have any of those compulsions day to day. It’s probably my greatest achievement. I go to bed in about 30 seconds. But I always think with mental health it’s something you work on and manage daily.’
Whatever struggle you’ve had as a new parent, Shakira has been there – including managing poor sleep. She remembers well the agony of trying to sleep when heavily pregnant with twins.
What advice does she have for knackered parents? She says: ‘I’m a big fan of a nap: the theory is no more than 20 minutes so you don’t go into a deep sleep.’
But with kids that often won’t happen. An alternative is literally putting your feet up high for three minutes. ‘Lie on the floor and put your feet on the sofa, or if you’re pregnant sit with feet on a footstool. That encourages return blood flow from your lower extremities, and spreads oxygen better – you’ll get a little energy just from that.’
For Shakira today, one thing stands out: ‘It’s about balance. Not just in terms of exercise and rest, or nutrition. But actually feeling balanced and comfortable in who you are.
‘I’m in a place where I’m really comfortable in just being myself and that’s the greatest thing we can all try to feel. That’s something I’m really proud of.’