This Isn’t About You

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“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

― Viktor E. Frankl, Jewish Holocaust Survivor

IMG_0849By Stephanie Sauer

I remember how determined I was when my first son was born. I was determined to shield him from anything painful and to be the best Mom I could be. I was determined to protect him from everything I wasn’t protected from.

Then four months after Ethan was born, my determination met reality. We discovered our son had health problems, which would mean painful tests, procedures and operations for years to come. That dreadful night, eight years ago, Ethan and I both sobbed in the emergency department of Children’s Hospital as nurses strapped him down and stuck needles in him. Everything in me wanted to pick him up and run away.

I thought, “Are you serious, God? In order to help my child, I have to stand by while strangers hurt him?”

As the doctors explained what was to come, I knew this made medical sense. But in my heart I felt like I was letting him down.

Friends would say, “But he won’t remember.”

And I would think, “You’re not the one who has to stand there, hear him cry and see him reach out to me.”

Then a wonderful psychologist spoke these words: “Stephanie, this isn’t about you.”

In one sentence, she took the “I” out of my parenting and, through her, God reminded me that Ethan was His child too. To be a good mother I have to look for God’s plan, wisdom and guidance.

I realized how much I was going to have to grow as a person in a short amount of time. During those painful tests and operations, my son didn’t need me to focus on myself. He needed me to show up as his Mom and focus on him. If he saw pain, fear and anxiety in my eyes, that would be his experience. If he saw love, security and peace, that would help him. But where would I find the strength to master my emotions so quickly?

So I prayed a desperate, earnest and humbling prayer of a mother who has realized her limits: I prayed for God to make me more than the sum of my parts. To make me the Mom Ethan needed. I remember saying, “God, I need you to show up like I’ve never needed you to show up before.”

IMG_1352Of course, God showed up. For the next test, I looked at my son with all of the love in my heart and I sang to him. Not embarrassed that doctors were hearing my less than perfect singing voice, I sang and he smiled. When it was done, the staff commented, “That went really well.”

God has kept showing up for the last eight years through four operations and more tests, IVs, needles and procedures than I can count.

God showed up through my husband who is our rock.

God showed up when Ethan was 18 months and had to fast for close to 24 hours due to a delayed operation. Instead of crying and complaining, he laughed while we blew bubbles and I sang.

God showed up when Ethan had a severe anaphylactic reaction and I ran into the emergency room with Ethan in my arms, his throat closing up and the nursing staff racing to help him. I sang and soothed him while they saved his life.

God showed up recently for Ethan’s last kidney operation. We played games before I proudly watched my eight-year-old son walk calmly and bravely into the operating room for a six-hour operation that would save his kidney.

I won’t lie. I did my share of crying over the years. In quiet hospital corners and in my husband’s arms, I cried all of the tears I couldn’t cry in front of Ethan. What I gave Ethan was my love, my strength and my song.

After eight years of God showing up, Ethan isn’t traumatized by hospitals. He sees them as interesting places, full of healers and cool machines. Every night he thanks God for the care he has received. He doesn’t focus on the pain. He remembers being helped, playing and making new friends. He remembers the songs I’ve sung. He remembers that we were always there with him.

I’ve learned that God’s plan for parenting is better than mine; that my sons don’t need me to always be their shield, but instead their ever present support. I’ve learned that God can give me the strength to do that in all situations.

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About Stephanie: 

Stepahnie Sauer bio photo

I am a child of God first. Also, I am a wonderfully happy wife, mother and a successful business woman, who believes women can “have it all.”  My favorite quotes are, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” (Eleanor Roosevelt) and “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” (Helen Keller).  I love playing outside with my family in the beautiful Lower Mainland of BC, travelling, snowboarding, running, watching movies, and I truly believe chocolate is a food group.
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Images courtesy of Stephanie Sauer

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