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How Infertility Saved Her Life: Sarah Willoughby #121

Warwick Fairfax

June 29, 2022

Lying in a hospital bed, unable to do anything for her only son but watch him leave and wondering if it would be the last time she’d see him was the traumatic crucible Sarah Willoughby faced after she turned to in vitro fertilization (IVF) in a desperate attempt to have another child. Diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and secondary infertility after losing another baby, she was at the end of her physical and emotional rope. That’s when she decided to stop trying to force her dreams to come true – and instead live her life with as much gusto and gratitude as she could. That determination has led her to a life of significance she couldn’t imagine at the depth of her crucible. She’s a life coach who helps clients love and heal themselves and is the author of a just-released book, INFERTILITY SAVED MY LIFE.  

 

To learn more about Sarah Willoughby, visit www.sarahwilloughby.com.au

Highlights

  • Sarah’s foundational years of pursuing what was expected of her (3:19)
  • Her fertility nightmare begins (4:54)
  • The additional challenges of secondary infertility (10:48) 
  • The wisdom from her guardian angel … and finding as new life  (15:02)
  • How she let go of her negative emotions (19:07)
  • Finding purpose in our pain (24:43)
  • Her message to the wider world (31:22)
  • The importance of gratitude (36:09)
  • Sarah’s message of hope for listeners (42:46)

Transcript

Warwick Fairfax:

Welcome to Beyond the Crucible. I’m Warwick Fairfax, the Founder of Crucible Leadership.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

One of the most defining moments was realizing that I may not recover and having to send my son back to the UK with his grandma. And he walked out of the hospital doors holding his rabbit, his well-loved rabbit, in one hand and his grandmother’s hand in the other and just turned around and looked at me and smiled. And I smiled at him and I thought, “I hope I’m okay. I hope I get to raise you.”

 

Gary Schneeberger:

It’s hard to imagine a more heartbreaking crucible than that. Lying in a hospital bed unable to do anything for your only son but watch him leave and wondering if it would be the last time you’d ever see him. Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, co-host of the show. Our guest this week, Sarah Willoughby, endured that unimaginably scary experience after turning to in vitro fertilization in a desperate attempt to have another child. Diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome and secondary infertility after losing another baby, she was at the end of her physical and emotional rope. That’s when she decided she was going to stop trying to force her dreams to come true and instead live her life with as much gusto and gratitude as she could. That determination has led her to a life of significance she couldn’t imagine at the depth of her crucible. She’s a life coach who helps clients love and heal themselves and is the author of a just released book, Infertility Saved My Life. She describes just how that’s been true in ways you won’t believe in this conversation with me and Warwick.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I first heard about you, just saw some posting on social media, saw that you’ve got a book coming out with Morgan James. I guess the eBook’s coming out in June which will be when the podcast… And then printed later in the year. So my book was published late last year, October 2021, by Morgan James. So yeah, we have that in common which is fabulous. And just the title of your book, Infertility Saved My Life, I mean it’s counterintuitive and there’s a whole story there that we’ll unpack. So I loved the title and the butterfly on the front and just on your website, when you talk about is this your opportunity to transform your life? You talk about this is the right place if you’re ready to heal, love yourself, achieve more, transform your life. So I love just what you’re about. And obviously, your story’s anchored by your crucible with polycystic ovary syndrome, PCOS, which I must confess I had not heard of until reading about you.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But before we get a bit into your story, tell us a bit about the backstory. You grew up I think you mentioned in England before coming to Australia a number of years ago. So what’s a bit of the backstory that makes Sarah Willoughby who you are and some of the threads that I’m sure you’ve picked up later on?

 

Sarah Willoughby:

Absolutely. So yeah, I grew up in the UK and I lived that typical life. I went to school, I studied hard. I spent six years at university and I followed the corporate path. So this life that I had expected for myself and other people expected for me. So I worked my way up the corporate ladder and I got there and I wasn’t happy. It wasn’t filling me with joy. But I didn’t know how to leave because I felt like it was already too late, which is really ironic because I was actually only still in my early twenties. But I felt like I put so much work into this life and I knew where I was going and then it didn’t really make my heart sing.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

So at the same time, I was going… And I was really stressed. I just want to say working in the corporate world was very, very stressful and I didn’t feel like I was being a good employee, a good wife and a good mother at the time. I just felt like I was in survival mode, not thriving for sure. And at the same time, I was just going on this journey to try and have a second child, and that’s where it all started to fall apart.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So talk about PCOS and there’s probably some listeners, maybe a number who don’t know what that is. It changed your life in a lot of bad ways, but it seems like incredibly, given your book’s called Infertility Saved My Life, there was some good that came out of just horrendous tragedy. So talk a bit about life was swimming along, you had a corporate job, a young son, a husband, maybe life could’ve been better but it doesn’t sound like it was terrible.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

No. And yeah, from the outside looking in, I had it at all. I had a beautiful lifestyle. I traveled. I had a good income. I was using my brain. I’d spent six years at university so that was important to me. But my desire to have another child was the thing that really was pushing me forward in life and was very challenging. So I found out in my early twenties that I had PCOS, it was actually a very late diagnosis. And because I’d had my son very easily, I didn’t think that I was going to struggle to have a second child. It just didn’t even enter my mind. It took me two years to conceive. And at that point, I then had what’s called a missed miscarriage which is when you’re still releasing all the pregnancy hormones, but your baby’s actually died. So a lot of women find out at their scan, their 12 week scan, that their baby had died a number of weeks before. And you have no idea.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

So at that point, I had to decide whether to wait for a natural miscarriage or whether to have surgery to remove everything because the pregnancy can continue for weeks and weeks and weeks. So I opted for surgery and that was really, really hard, really hard. And a lot of women go through this. I actually ended up on ward where lots of young girls were having abortions, so effectively the same operation but for different reasons. And no judgment around that, we’re all at different stages in our life. But that was very, very confronting. I felt like the universe had put a baby in the wrong body sort of thing. And I felt very numb when I woke up from that surgery and I was crying and one of the nurses said to me, “Do you want to speak to the hospital chaplain?” And even though I wasn’t religious, I said, “Yes.” And that was absolutely life changing for me because she was the first person that acknowledged that I lost a baby.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

And I think for a lot of women and men going through infertility, there isn’t that acknowledgement that you have lost a child. It’s like oh, it’s just a group of cells or just get over it. So there isn’t that compassion and understanding. And she put on a proper funeral service for my family, so me and my ex-husband and my son. And that was beautiful. And the reason I share that is because for anybody going through infertility, there is a grieving process that you need to go through and there is an acknowledgement of the life that was that grew inside you that you felt, but a life that also now is not going to be. So that was really important for me. And from there, I basically was told there wasn’t really much that they could do for me with how my body was reacting to everything. So I was told, “Go through IVF.” So IVF is an emotional roller coaster. You’re taking hormones, it’s something that’s done, again, behind closed doors. You don’t talk about it. You don’t want people to know.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

So I’m trying to carry on with this really stressful job and hold down my life at the same time that I’m trying to have another child. We went over to Norway actually to have the IVF because we’d lost a lot of faith in the UK system, and they messed up a lot of my care and detrimentally. So went over to Norway, had IVF treatment. And unfortunately, my body didn’t like the drugs and it reacted very badly and I ended up in intensive care. And I can genuinely say I hope I never experience that level of physical pain in my life because I was on morphine and it didn’t even take the edge off the pain. It was very, very confronting. I put on about 20 kilograms of fluid in about 72 hours. My body just filled up with fluid. I had fluid on my lungs, I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was drowning. I had an enlarged heart. I was at risk of blood clots and there was just nothing that the doctors could do to stop the deterioration. They just have to treat each symptom as it arose.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

And I guess one of the most defining moments was realizing that I may not recover and having to send my son back to the UK with his grandma. And he walked out of the hospital doors holding his rabbit, his well-loved rabbit, in one hand and his grandmother’s hand in the other and just turned around and looked at me and smiled. And I smiled at him and I thought, “I hope I’m okay. I hope I get to raise you.” That was really challenging. And it made me realize like, “What have I done?” This was an elective procedure, I’ve put myself in this position. And I felt guilt and I felt shame and just excruciating physical, emotional, mental, spiritual pain.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Wow. I mean thank you for sharing that because obviously I know it’s not easy. You share it for a purpose, to serve others which we’ll get into. But you have a mixture of horrendous physical pain and emotional pain. I mean there’s probably a whole sea of different things you’re going through. I would imagine there’s probably a number of people, a number of other women that have never heard of this secondary infertility. Your average person, average woman I imagine thinks once you get pregnant the first time, you’re probably good to go. Obviously, as you get older, it gets tough. As you get closer to 40, it gets pretty difficult. When you’re in your twenties, in theory, it’s easier and then it gets harder as you go from 20 to 30 to 40.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And so there’s probably a lot of women that says, “Well Sarah, how can that possibly be? I mean you’ve already had a child, how can there be an issue, right?” You probably thought once I’ve had that first one, I’m good to go. Things are working the way they’re meant to and let’s go. So did you find other women like what is it and just couldn’t understand what you were talking about?

 

Sarah Willoughby:

I think there was a lot of guilt for me around feeling the loss and the grief and the confusion and the resentment towards my own body because I’d already had a child. So I knew a lot of people who were struggling to have their first child. So this is something that a lot of women going through secondary infertility feel like they can’t even talk about it. So there’s a silence, an even bigger silence around secondary infertility because you feel like you should just be happy that you’ve had a child. And of course I was, he was my life.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Right. So what you’re saying is there are some women who’ve never had a child which would be saying maybe in their worst moments, and we all have them, who are you to complain? I would do anything to have a little boy, little girl, little child. And so they probably found it very difficult to understand why you would be… Because you can’t really empathize fully with something you’ve never experienced. If they obviously have-

 

Sarah Willoughby:

No. And that’s the same in life for anything, isn’t it? Until we’ve walked in somebody else’s shoes, we just can’t understand. But I think because there’s so much silence and stigma and shame around infertility and it’s something we don’t talk about, I think that’s what makes it harder whereas if you’re on a different health journey, there’s a lot less silence around some of the other big issues that people face. So that’s why I share my story because I want to break that silence. I want to really shine a light on this and take away that shame because we know that shame is the lowest vibration. And when we shine a light on shame, we take away the power that it holds over us.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So you’ve talked obviously a bit about the physical excruciating pain, but it sounds like as bad, maybe worse, I don’t know, but as bad with just the emotional torment that the mixture of shame, of, “What have I almost done to my son?” I mean every mother is going to think, “Nobody’s going to be able to care for my child the way I can.” That’s just I think a part of being human, a part of being a mother. And nothing against grandparents or husband, you feel like, “I want it to be me because I’m going to love my child in a way that nobody else on the planet is going to be able to do.” That’s just your natural feeling I’m sure. So you’ve got that sense of maybe shame, anger, resentment. Maybe there was some anger and resentment against universe, God, or whatever. So talk a bit about those sea of emotions both towards you, towards others and maybe even to higher power, whoever’s up there. Talk a bit about some of those emotions.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

Yeah. I think for me, it made me realize how much resentment and hatred I had towards my own body. I was like, “Why is this happening? What have I done wrong? Was I a bad person in a past life? What’s going on here? What lesson am I not learning?” I’ve always believed there’s a lesson and a gift in everything that we experience, that nothing is black or white, life is about duality. So I knew that there was a bigger purpose for all of it. When I actually started to recover, when the process started to reverse itself and the doctors realized that I was going to be okay, which was incredible, one of the consultants who actually wasn’t working on my ward at the time, she came in, it was about 10 o’clock at night, and she came and she sat down and she put her hand on my leg and she said, “You’ve been really lucky.” And then she looked away and she had tears in her eyes and she became my guardian angel. I have so much gratitude for her because I really understood in that moment what she was telling me.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

She was telling me, “You’re lucky to be alive. Life is really short.” And that’s the message that I try to share with people now is don’t wait until you’re in the situation that I was in. I got the biggest kick up the bum from the universe and I’m grateful for that because it changed my life. So that’s why my book is called Infertility Saved My Life because it saved me from a life that would’ve lacked resonance. It took me on a different path, but the path that I was destined to be on that I had been too scared to follow. So in that moment when she’d left and I reflected and I laid in bed by myself and I thought, “I have to step up for myself and for other people. I have to be who I need to be. And I have to make these decisions to move forward in my life.” And then from there, I recovered, went back to the UK. Fortunately, we had done the egg retrieval so I had 10 frozen embryos.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

And when I recovered, I went back to Norway and I had two transferred and I got pregnant with twins. And I was like, “This is why it’s happened.” I’d always had this romantic notion of twins. And I was so excited and we’d already started planning an emigration to Australia, sorry, and so my whole life was going to come over here, family of five. And then in that process of moving over here, I lost one of the twins and then I lost the other one. And then I sat with myself and thought, “Do I go? Do I stay? I’ve got nothing left to lose. We’ve got to go. We’ve got to start a new life.” And we had no jobs to come to, we didn’t know anybody. We just threw it all up in the air. We left the UK in the recession so we couldn’t even go back if things hadn’t worked out, we wouldn’t have walked back into our jobs. And we came over here, began a new life and I surrendered. And I think that’s what changed emotionally for me was I let go. I just surrendered. I let go.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

My life went into flight. I had this pivotal moment of lying on my bed thinking I feel peaceful for the first time in my life. Don’t ever let me forget that. And within six weeks, I fell pregnant with my daughter who is now 11. And then four years later, I had my other daughter who is now seven. And for me, just that surrender to life was life changing. And again, that’s what I try and share with other people that we have all the answers inside, but we can’t always hear them. So let’s connect with self to find them. But it’s okay also to not have all the answers at any point in time. Just take that first step. Just be brave, show up for yourself.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So boy, there’s so much of what you’ve said. I mean it sounds like your worst moment, this whole PCOS, infertility changed the direction of your life ultimately for the positive. It was an extremely painful experience. And sometimes, certainly in my case which is extremely different, somebody’s told me several times you can’t compare crucibles, losing a $2 billion family media business which wasn’t so much about the money, but 150 years of heritage felt like I’d let down generations of my family. And even the country in some warped sense and it was a pretty difficult experience. And I also left in this case to go to the U.S., my wife’s American. So everybody’s experience is different.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But talk about, I think you’ve begun to, is how you let go of some of those negative emotions, whether it’s anger towards the universe, some sense of self-loathing, self-hatred of, “How could I do this to my son?” Or how did you let go of those negative emotions to surrender? I don’t know, it doesn’t seem like it was a coincidence that after that happened, you had two more beautiful children. Because I know a lot of listeners are going to be wondering, “Well Sarah, how could you let go of that anger to yourself and to the world and the universe? How could you let go of that sea of negative emotions and anger and frustration and shame?”

 

Sarah Willoughby:

When my body healed itself and I had no long-term symptoms, I realized how amazing our bodies are. And I also realized that the relationship that I had with myself and what I was saying to myself was the most important one. Whether we like it or not, we’re stuck with ourselves for the rest of our lives, it’s the only relationship that is guaranteed. And I made that conscious decision that it was going to be a good one and that I was going to practice self-care and that I was going to nurture myself. And instead of putting myself last, I was going to start putting myself first. And as women, a lot of us don’t do that. We nurture and care for everybody else and we give so much of ourselves to everybody else that we have nothing left really for ourselves. But the analogy around you can’t pour from an empty cup is so true. And our cup doesn’t just need to be full, it needs to be overflowing so that we’re not taking from the cup at any point.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

And that’s the work that I do with a lot of people is helping them to understand that if you’re okay, your family will be okay and those people around you will be okay. But if you fall over, then nobody’s okay. So I think that change around mindset of celebrating my body, realizing that our body gives us clues all the time. We get a lot of our answers from our body. We feel it in our body. We get that gut instinct, intuition, whatever you want to call it. But we have that deep knowing. And when we can tune into that, then we are always on the right path. We just need to get rid of the distractions and actually be able to learn how to tune in. So that was really important for me in that journey of healing and realizing that anger was not serving me. And it’s okay to be angry. We actually have to acknowledge our emotions and I’d pushed a lot of them away.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

And I think that was what changed too, was that I was able to start labeling how I was feeling and observe it without getting pulled into the drama and then allow it to just move through my body and let it go, because an emotion only really lasts for about 90 seconds. But we push it away, we push it away, we push it away. We don’t want to feel it because it feels uncomfortable. But we need to do that because it’s not the emotion that’s the problem, it’s what we do with the emotion and our behavior around that that’s the issue.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

On the subject of emotions, and I might have heard you wrong, but a while back in this conversation, I thought I heard you say, and if this is what you said, I’d love you to unpack it a little bit, that shame is the lowest vibration. Did you say that?

 

Sarah Willoughby:

Yes. Yeah.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

That just struck me as very profound. What do you mean by that? Because a lot of people who go through crucibles who have those experiences that change the trajectory of their lives feel shame over it. Warwick went through that. I’ve gone through that.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

Yeah.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

What does that mean it’s the lowest vibration?

 

Sarah Willoughby:

What it means is my belief system is that we are all energetic beings having a physical experience. And we naturally resonate with people, don’t we? We’re drawn to certain people, we’re drawn to certain situations and that’s all energy. But shame is the lowest vibration in terms of when we sit in that energetic space, that’s where a lot of people commit suicide. That’s where a lot of people go in their darkest days and their darkest moments. But what disempowers shame is talking about it, is shining a light on it, is bringing it to light and realizing that a lot of the things that we are ashamed of people don’t look at it in the same way. We hold a lot within ourselves and when actually share it with other people, we realize that nobody else feels that way.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

So it really is about talking to other people, whoever you feel comfortable, I’m sharing that with or somebody that’s completely objective and just bringing it to light and starting to unpack it. But Dr. Brené Brown, I encourage people to read her work, follow her, she’s been an incredible inspiration to me on my journey about understanding vulnerability, that’s another one that is really difficult for people to understand, shame, empathy, courage, being brave. Her journey in itself is really, really inspiring. She now works with Oprah Winfrey and her TED talk, I really encourage people to watch her TED talk because it’s gone viral.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Help listeners understand why that’s so important, just the willingness to seek help and certainly seek help from others, being willing to share these things.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

Yeah, certainly when I was going through IVF, I fortunately had sought the help of a hypnotherapist. And one of the best pieces of advice that she gave me is that a lot of people make the mistake of allowing their tragedy or whatever they’re going through, their lowest moments to define them. And like you said, we have a choice. We can use our pain to be powerful and become our purpose in some way or we can allow it to take us down. So I think mindset is just this crazy journey of every day having to catch our own thoughts because we are so critical. What we say in our own heads we wouldn’t dream of saying to other people. And when we actually start to acknowledge some of those negative mindsets, the repetitive mindset that we have that is very derogatory, then we are halfway there to being able to stop it. We have 60 to 70,000 thoughts a day, 90% of those are repeated from the day before and 80% of those thoughts are negative.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

So we’re already on this uphill battle of every day having to really work hard to change what’s going on in our minds. And one of the things that’s helped me is the word, “Yet.” So putting the word, “Yet,” on the end of a sentence, “I don’t understand it yet, I’m not good at that yet,” is really empowering. So there’s lots of little things that we can do to actually help to reframe how we show up for ourselves and other people. And like I said, finding people that we trust. So finding a tribe, whatever you are going through in life, finding people that just love you for you, that understand you, that realizing we don’t have to be perfect all the time. That’s impossible, we can’t be. There’s a perfection in imperfection. When we start to be brave and we start to really be who we came here to be, we attract all those people into our lives that help us to continue to be our best version. So it’s this vicious cycle and it’s a beautiful one when we actually trust ourselves.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Talk about what motivated you to write that book which I think you’ve talked about some of. And what from my words, if you don’t mind me, your ministry, your work, your coaching, yeah, just what do you feel that your life’s mission is through this book and your mission to help others is?

 

Sarah Willoughby:

Yeah. So the reason I wrote the book and it has been a very confronting journey because it’s my story, so I know that you will understand that. So the first part of the book is a memoir, it’s my life story and how I got to where I am now. And then the second part are the tools and techniques and wisdom and insight that I learned along the way, things that I wish I’d known sooner as well that helped me through that. So I wanted it to be a really practical resource for people. So it wasn’t just a story of so what do I do now? How does that impact my life? How can I move forward? I wanted to integrate the two things. But the reason that I wrote it is primarily because I don’t want anybody else to go through what I felt when I was going through my infertility journey, because I felt so much shame, silence, stigma, isolation and I dealt with a lot of this behind closed doors. And we don’t need to because the statistics show so many people all around the world are dealing with this.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

We all know somebody who is dealing with infertility or we will do, and those figures are increasing. So we can hold space for those people. Even if we don’t understand that journey, we can hold space for those people to be able to make that journey easier for them. So that’s the reason that I’ve written the book is to break that silence and to help ease suffering and pain because that’s why we’re all here. We’re all connected. We are all just walking each other home in very different ways, but that’s the reality of what we’re all here doing. And we can do that with love and compassion or we can become very self-centered and just think that life is just about our journey, but it’s not. It’s about the bigger picture. I also wanted to leave a legacy for the generations to come. So I wanted to leave something that would touch those people whose lives… I’ll never meet those people.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

But if I could just help one person, then my work is done. It was very much about that. In terms of the work that I do now, I just love supporting people to see themselves, truly see themselves and realize who they are, see their potential, connect with their heart space, really help them to live more fulfilled lives because I believe that if we were all doing that, we wouldn’t have war, we wouldn’t have crime, we wouldn’t have hate, we’d be in a different space. And again, the ripple effect of that, the ripple effect of the work that you’re doing is huge. We don’t necessarily see that with our own eyes, but we know from a heart space that we need to do this work. All of us need to do the work on ourselves, but we need to do the work for other people.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It seems like there’s two levels in a sense in your book, one is others who are dealing with infertility and if you have it, and obviously not all women do, I mean a huge amount do, but certainly the secondary infertility that even women that struggle with infertility may not be aware of this, take away the stigma of that and help people just give themselves some love and grace. But as you’ve mentioned, there’s another level with people that are dealing with shame and self-judgment from any challenge, there’s a whole other level in your ministry in a sense, your work that’s so important. And I love this phrase, I think you have it on your profile somewhere, and I love what you wrote. You wrote, “If you have an idea or a dream that still needs to be birthed into the world, don’t give up. Everything happens in divine timing and if you keep trusting, the universe will co-create with you.”

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Well in some sense, the tragedy you went through you used as a springboard for a dream, for a bigger purpose in your life. And that seems like that’s your message to the wider world. So how would you put that message to that wider world, those who are dealing with shame and grief and they may not be seeing themselves as having a dream, or they may think to themselves, “I’m worthy of nothing. Nothing I have can help anybody. I just need to hide in a hole until it all ends,” because there are some people that feel that way? “Just don’t look at me, shun me. Please shun me, I deserve to be shunned.” Talk about how you have a different vision for people.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

I think for me, I connect with people on a soul level. So I see beyond all the facade, the masks that we wear. And I really encourage people to start to get still. So we’ve talked about mindfulness, we’ve talked about for me, meditation was that thing that saved my life. If I hadn’t had learned meditation, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have got through what I went through when I was in hospital in Norway all those years ago. So nature is that thing that helps me every single day to get out of a dark hole or a dark head space or however I’m feeling. So that is something that each and every one of us can do. Even if you don’t believe in yourself, even if you don’t believe you’re worthy, even if you don’t know where your life is going, I really encourage people to go outdoors to just be, not do, we spend our whole lives doing and we just need to spend more time being.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

And what happens when we’re in nature is that everything just starts to fall away, our mind, the negative monkey mind chatter that goes on constantly starts to lessen and we start to connect with our heart space. And when we start to feel that, we start to feel worthy and it’s a process and it’s a practice and we need to push ourselves to do it and go out, even when we don’t feel like it. It’s like going to the gym, even when you don’t feel like going to the gym, remember the feeling that you have when you come home and you’re like, “I did that workout and I pushed myself.” We can do that gently, we can do that in nature, we can do that with meditation, we can do that through prayer. We can do whatever our belief system is, but really commit to finding that thing for you that fills you up, that brings you joy because you need to draw on that for when you’re going through those challenging times.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I know we’re getting close to closing, but I want to just dwell a bit on what you’ve said here, Sarah, because it’s so profoundly true. Like you, I love nature and because I’m a reflective person, I can reflect on all sorts of things, some of them positive, some of them not so positive. And just over the weekend, we happened to be in far Northern Michigan for the summer. My wife doesn’t like hot weather, she’s got a Norwegian Irish background. And so anyway, it doesn’t get too hot where we are because we’re so far north. But there are just beautiful woods, birch trees which obviously you have them in the UK. I’m sure if you go up north and certainly in Norway, you would have them-

 

Sarah Willoughby:

Yes.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

When you were there. And just walking in the woods, we went on this just beautiful bike trail. And I remember thinking to myself, “Okay, I’m going to focus on being present right here, right now for this second. I’m going to listen to the wind going through the trees, the sunlight speckling through, then looking at the meadows and the fields and the farm houses in the distance, the beautiful mid-seventies weather,” which for those in Fahrenheit, probably 20 Celsius somewhere. But I remember thinking to myself, “I’m going to focus on being present and being so grateful for this incredible bike ride and then earlier this incredible walk in nature.” And whoever you believe created it all, it makes you think, “I’m a part of something bigger than myself and how blessed I am to experiencing this beautiful spot.” For us, it could be nature, others, it could be music, whatever transports you to a place where you’re focusing on something that’s positive that helps you heal your soul. I mean it does work, it does for me. I love walking in nature or cycling in nature. It’s awesome.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

Yeah, it is the most beautiful experience. And I didn’t realize how connected to nature I was until I moved over to Australia and I know I’m blessed to live by the beach and just watching the sunset, the sunrise is so incredibly healing. And it’s like you said, you realize you’re just a small part in this amazing world. It’s just we’re all connected and we’re just part of something so much bigger. We’re a drop in the ocean, but we’re part of the whole ocean. And I think when we really understand that, that is when life changes and gratitude has been huge for me.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Well since you mentioned the G word, gratitude, I have to comment on that. So I so love, love that point. And obviously, I didn’t create this whole idea, there’s a bunch of people who’ve written on gratitude, but I do, when I start getting negative, try to focus on I’m so blessed. I have an incredible wife of over 30 years, I have three adult kids, two boys and a girl, I’m so blessed by them. We go to a non-denominational church in Maryland. I mean there’s so many things. I love what I do in Crucible Leadership and the team that we have. I have a long list of things that I’m so grateful and so blessed by. And so dwell on the things that you’re blessed by.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I’m sure you probably have a long list. You have I’m sure three wonderful kids. You live in a beautiful part of Australia, the Mornington Peninsula, South of Melbourne. I mean I’m sure you love what you do, you’ve got a book coming out. I mean those are just probably the tip of the iceberg just of the little things I know that we’ve spoken about. There’s probably a longer list. But rather than focusing on why life is so bad and life’s not easy, just being in nature and just being grateful, focusing what you’re grateful for. You go through that list, after a while, it’d be pretty tough for that despondency not to break a little bit, right? Some rays of sunshine to break through the clouds.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

Yeah. Yeah. And I just want to say with the gratitude thing too, it can be something really small. And I think for some people, when they’re in that really difficult head space, as the saying goes, you can’t see the wood for the trees and you can’t find the things to be grateful for. So start small, be grateful for the warm cup of tea you’re drinking, be grateful for the hot shower you had this morning, be grateful for the bed that you’re lying in. But really just start to notice and take note and write things down, three things every morning or every evening, whatever works best for you, write them down. And before you know it, you’ll have a whole book of things that you can read back when you’re having a really bad day and say, “Okay, I do actually have these amazing things in life,” because I think previously, I’d thought that you couldn’t be happy and angry at the same time.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

You couldn’t have all these conflicting emotions at the same time, but you can be going through the hardest time of your life and you can still be grateful. And some of those moments that were hardest in my life, ironically I have the most gratitude for those because they had a bigger purpose. They had a bigger purpose. When I think of gratitude, lying in hospital in the most intense pain, but one of the things that I’m so grateful for is that lady that came, that consultant that came to speak to me. Those two things at the time were just… But they can both exist at the same time. You can be grateful and find moments of happiness even when you’re grieving, even when you’re going through the hardest times.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Also, what can happen at the same time is you can be in a plane and the plane is about to land. And that sound you just heard, listener, was the captain turning on the fasten seatbelt sign indicating that we’re going to land this conversational plane in a bit. But before we do, I have to point out something that I love. I love a lot of things about co-hosting this show. The thing I love the most is when Warwick and the guest speak the same words in different languages, if you will. There have been so many instances in this conversation with you, Sarah, in which you’ve said something that’s a shading of what Warwick talks about all the time in Crucible Leadership. And the one that sticks out to me, Warwick defines the end goal of moving beyond your crucible as a life of significance. And he defines that as living a life on purpose dedicated to serving others.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And you used a phrase in this conversation, it just slipped by, but I wrote it down because it strikes me that that’s your way of saying the same thing. We’re all just walking each other home. There’s just something so beautiful about that idea of, again, you’re living your life on purpose, you’re noticing things and you’re serving others, we’re all just walking each other home. That’s just one of the examples and it’s just one in this episode in which you guys have talked about similar things, similar rhythms in different words. And that shows me the universality of the principles of what we’re talking about. I would be remiss before the plane gets on the ground though, Sarah, if I did not give you the chance to let listeners know how they can get in touch with you, how they can know more about your book and how they can buy your book. So where can they find you on the internet?

 

Sarah Willoughby:

Thank you. So through my website, sarahwilloughby.com.au. I’m also on LinkedIn, Sarah Willoughby 2019, and Instagram and Facebook, Sarah Willoughby Australia. So basically search my name and you will find me. I love connecting with people. In terms of my book, my ebook is being launched on the 7th of June, which also happens to be my birthday-

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Happy birthday. That is wonderful timing.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yes, that’s perfect.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

Yeah. And I didn’t even tell them it was my birthday, but that was what was chosen. So I love that. And seven is a very spiritual number, so it’s all just perfectly aligned. So that’s available as an ebook on the 7th of June and then it’s available in global bookstores on the 6th of December from all the usual online retailers and places. So I really encourage people to, even if it’s not for them, there’s probably going to be somebody that might need to hear that story of hope and inspiration. So thank you.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Warwick, as always and as appropriate, the last question or two are all yours.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Well Sarah, thank you so much for being here. I just find your whole message so encouraging, it’s a message of hope. And gosh, I feel like your story in part, I love the title of your book, Infertility Saved My Life, it was excruciatingly physically painful, spiritually, emotionally, I don’t know, I can’t think of too many other axes, but whatever axes there are in life, you felt them all in a huge way. But yet in some ways, the life you’re living, the life of purpose which you are dedicated to serving others was birthed in the excruciating pain on every level at that time. And I know it’s not easy to understand if today’s your worst day, whether it’s through infertility or it might be hard to understand, but maybe it’s a message of hope.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Talk about how you’ve found some purpose in the pain that you went through. And I know for me, I’m guessing it’s true for you, it doesn’t eliminate the pain, but somehow it makes it easy to deal with. So talk a bit about that whole pain for purpose and Infertility Saved My Life. Talk a bit about how that crucible may be excruciating, but good can come of it and how it can almost be healing in some ways. I don’t know, does that make sense at all?

 

Sarah Willoughby:

It does. I think for me, I realized that this was bigger than me. This wasn’t just about me. And I think I went on this journey of realizing that I was enough. Everybody is enough as they are. And when we get to that place of accepting who we are, flaws and all, then life really does change. And when we realize that we’re enough, then we want to find our unique gifts and talents and skills and we want to share those with the world because we need them. You think of all the people that have come before us and all the inventions and all the beautiful things that this world offers us, that all happened because people were brave and because they stepped up and they believed in themselves and they believed in their dream, their goal, their vision, whatever it was. And then they took action. So it’s not just enough to have the dream, we’ve actually got to take those steps.

 

Sarah Willoughby:

So whatever people need to do to get to that place of feeling enough, we’ve talked about it, connecting with self, mindfulness, prayer, being out in nature, writing, seeking help from others, connecting with your tribe, whatever it is, do one small thing today, take one small step right now, as soon as you’ve finished listening to this, because I learned the hard way how short life is. And would I have had a life of regret? I absolutely would for all the things that I didn’t do, for the fact that the music was going to die inside me, for all the things that I hadn’t been brave enough to walk towards. Everybody has that ability, that opportunity right now to draw a line in the sand whatever they’re going through and say, “Enough is enough. My life starts again right now.” And I really encourage people to do that and to find the tools to help them to do that every day.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I have been in the communication business long enough to know when the last word on the subject has been spoken and Sarah Willoughby just spoke it. She didn’t just speak the last word, she also did my job because I was going to round up all the things that she said as we closed the show and she just listed them all off. So I don’t have to do that because Sarah is such a good communicator that she also gets it and she summarized everything that we’ve talked about in that last statement. So I’m left with this, listener. You’ve heard Warwick talk a little bit here about his story and you’ve heard the commonalities between Warwick’s bounce back from his crucible and Sarah’s bounce back from her crucible, completely different crucibles, but the emotional journey back, very similar in some ways. And you can learn more about Warwick’s or learn more about it, again, Warwick’s journey by reading his book, buying his book, Crucible Leadership: Embrace Your Trials to Lead a Life of Significance, which you can order on our website at crucibleleadership.com.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

There’s also lots of other resources there that Warwick provides. There’s blogs, there’s an assessment that helps you understand where you are in your own journey in charting a course toward a life of significance. So come to crucibleleadership.com and spend a little time getting to know the assets that are there. And since Sarah took my ending away, I’m going to steal an ending from her website because as Warwick hinted earlier or said earlier, there’s some things on her website that are just really profound. And on Sarah’s website, when you go there to learn more about her, she gave you the website earlier, there’s a slogan at the top right next to her name, Sarah Willoughby. And it says this, and I want to leave you with this based on this discussion, listener, and that is that, “Life begins right now. You’ve got this.” That’s the message of what we’ve just talked about. That’s the message of Beyond the Crucible.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

So listener, until the next time we’re together, do remember, we understand your crucible experiences are difficult, they’re painful, they’re traumatic. They can knock the wind out of your lungs and change the trajectory of your life. But as Warwick and as Sarah both have talked about today and have proven with their lives, they’re not the end of your story. They can in fact be the beginning of a brand new exciting story, one that brings your heart alive as they’ve both said, one that if you take one little step at a time, you can get on a course toward the best chapter of the best story of your life because where it leads you ultimately is to a life of significance.