where the writers are
Mothering: An Exercise in Loss

When my son was an infant, I’d lay in bed at night, my husband beside me warm and lost to the deepest of sleep, while I listened for the sound of our miracle in his crib--was that a cry? I’d tiptoe into his room and slip my finger under his nose to test for breathing. Stunned that someone so flawed as I could have been entrusted with this perfect little life, this singular soul. I, who had always had to learn things the hard way, was now responsible for the success, the very survival of another’s life.


Motherhood is a crapshoot. You try to make the “right” decisions. Planning, charting trajectories that connect dots irrespective of reality, chaos, all the ways things can go awry. When we discovered he was blind at three months I was convinced this was proof of some failure of mine in gestation; what had I eaten? His blindness evolved to an impaired vision. But other challenges arrived, discovering at six that he was epileptic, a disease he outgrew riding the bumps and bruises of grammar school, only to descend into the maw of middle school and adolescent angst.  For the past 19 years loving him, caring for him, keeping him safe have been constants in my life.

And now, 3,000 miles from home, I am saying goodbye.

Mothering is an exercise in loss. From the moment of conception a woman loses the autonomy of her body and soul, forever. She eats with another’s appetites, she dreams for two. Her body becomes another’s birthplace; growing and changing with a life becoming in her interior, a life she guards and protects with each step, each breath, each bite of food. In nine months the baby outgrows the dark clutch of her womb and she is impelled by primal forces to relinquish this new life to a world imperfect and beyond her control. Her body will provide his sustenance. Her sleep will never be as deep.

Then begins the impossible task of protecting him in a world of wars and global warming, terrorists and pedophiles, cancer and polio, and everyday random chance. It is beyond comprehension, but she secures the cupboards, puts up bumpers, and hopes and prays for the best. As the baby grows, as he learns to hold his head up, to sit, to speak, she begins to relax and trust that he will make it. If she is watchful, if she is lucky, he just might be safe. There are so many things she will teach him, helping him to take small risks, become independent and take the necessary steps away from her. And then, before she knows it, it will be time for him to leave.

And so I sit, in a faraway state in a hotel lobby, drinking bitter coffee while my son prepares for his big move into a college dorm. There have been so many leave takings to prepare us for this. The first errand, a week after his birth, the first airplane flight away from him and our first night apart. After leaving him at his first day of preschool, I walked around the block aching with what I feared was his sense of abandonment, what I had so often felt as a child. I learned that my pains were not his; he was fine; he left me with a smile, he trusted in my return. The leave takings became easier, welcome, a fact of life. Trips to grandparents, slumber parties, rock and roll summer camp. Every day, every week, every year my job has been teaching him to leave me.

And now it’s time, in this new chapter on letting go. I tell him again that I love him, hug his slim body and watch him walk away from me, waving, looking out from behind his new shades, cool in his rocker T-shirt and slouchy jeans, his gorgeous long curls swaying. He wants so much to reinvent himself here at college. I know that his good heart, his curious self and luminous mind will find fine company. I delight in the faith that he can be happy here in a big new way. And I pray, as  always, that he finds open hearts and hands, that he will be loved.

My days of hands-on mothering are over. My work now is quiet listening and faith; keeping the ache of this loss within me, in the empty place he leaves me with, that pulls at me now as he walks away, knowing he will never come home to me in the same way again.

14 Comment count
Comment Bubble Tip

Kim dana Garcia Beautifully

Kim dana Garcia

Beautifully expressed!! A story in which only a mother could truly relate. Peace n' Blessings!! Kim

Comment Bubble Tip

Thank you

Thank you for reading my blog and for your kind words. teresa

Comment Bubble Tip

Thank You

Thanks for the wonderful piece that speaks for all of us who are parents!

 Julie and Michael Petrini

Comment Bubble Tip

Oh My

That might just be the most achingly beautiful essay I've ever read, Teresa. Truly.

Shana Moore
Shana McLean Moore

Comment Bubble Tip

Thank you!

Thank you for your kind remarks. The beauty of being a writer is having the opportunity to weave the hard parts of our lives into words and connect with others.

Comment Bubble Tip

Powerful Reality of Motherhood


Dear Teresa: 

In letting go of your son with faith, you've relevantly painted a powerful and moving imagery of motherhood.

And indeed, because my daughter, who is really my little angel just started pre-school; and with my wife, I dropped her off at school the first day; and thereafter I personally drop her off alone in the mornings, while my wife picks her up in the afternoon, I can soulfully relate to the following deeply touching words of yours:

"After leaving him at his first day of preschool, I walked around the block aching with what I feared was his sense of abandonment, what I had so often felt as a child. I learned that my pains were not his; he was fine; he left me with a smile, he trusted in my return. The leave takings became easier, welcome, a fact of life."

Thank you so much for sharing this "Mothering: An Exercise in Loss" with us in the Red Room. I am sure I'll be back to read this blog many more times. Wishing you wonderful and refreshing days ahead. GOD bless you and your family abundantly in all things. Cheers!




Comment Bubble Tip

Simply Beautiful!

Oh! Teresa, Your story took my breath away! You have captured every mother's heart in " Mothering: An Exercise in Loss."

Saying Good-bye's ( The saddest words a mother feels), truly, through "all" the years of motherhood!

Thank you for your beautiful essay.


Catherine Nagle

Comment Bubble Tip

Thank you

Thanks Catherine!

Comment Bubble Tip

Lovely expression

Thank you Teresa for this - you perfectly captured the feeling of continual loss and longing, we mothers somehow learn to live around.


Comment Bubble Tip

totally great

I really loved this.

Comment Bubble Tip


This is really beautiful, Theresa. I was there, just a year ago. It was so hard. But I have to say that my daughter (just started her 2nd year, 2000 miles away) has grown amazingly as a person during this time away, and our relationship is better than it has ever been in her entire life. I am grateful for the independence that has made us closer. So although it is a loss, it can also be an unexpected gain in different ways. In the meantime, pass the Kleenex. I wish you both the best during this huge transition.

Comment Bubble Tip

So Moving

Rosemary Graham

Theresa, what an achingly lovely piece of writing. Every September I get weepy myself watching parents walk around Saint Mary's preparing to say good-bye. I've got years yet--seven. Thanks for the reminder to savor.


Comment Bubble Tip

Oh Teresa - You captured it

Oh Teresa -
You captured it all so beautifully. This is just how it feels. You would think after five children and all their coming and going, that I would be used to it, but no...every time feels like the first time they leave. This though, is what good writing should do, describe our losses and help us recuperate. Thanks for this.

Comment Bubble Tip


Hi Teresa,

It's been four years since I read your beautiful piece. My son just started his first year of college a month ago, and you've captured what I'm feeling perfectly.

From the moment we give birth; we no longer just think for ourselves anymore; we begin thinking for someone else, too. And this love, this thinking, will go on and on because "this one" has made our house a home. 

Thank you so much for touching us all! I really needed to read this again this morning:-)