In my mind, my son, Wes, is tall. He is kind and smart and full of sweet mischief. He loves to run. He runs everywhere, down the hall, down the street. Always with a sly grin. Like his dad. He has his dad's eyes and his perfect nose and his lips.
He has my dark hair: a full of head of almost black locks. And my complexion. A bronze tint that displays his proud Native American heritage. He has my laugh and with his dad's lips, somehow has my smile.
In my mind, my son is such a sweet boy. When he's little, he clings to me. His hands in my hair as he suckles my breast and stares into my eyes. He let's me hold him close and kiss him a million kisses. As he gets older, he calls me "mama," and tells me he loves me.
He is smart. So inquisitive crawling and climbing everywhere, investigating everything with chubby little hands and curious eyes. We are thick as thieves, he and I. Adventurers who explore the neighborhood and name the plants and bugs on daily walks.
In my mind, my son wants nothing more than to be like his dad. When he's little, he looks so tiny in his dad's big hands. So safe and secure. And as he grows, he gains his confidence and strength. His sense of humor and the twinkle in his eye. He's got a mad tennis forehand lovingly crafted by his dad on weekends at the neighborhood court. And there are lots of dad and Wes adventures. Many with Buster tagging along to explore the woods or the beach in the sunny summer days we spend in Michigan.
He grows into a wonderful man who is kind and compassionate and strong and fair. Someone who has had a childhood filled with love and care. The child of parents who dreamed of him and were grateful for him single everyday.
In my mind this is how it is.
In reality, my son is tiny. He weighs three pounds and seven ounces. He has his dad's eyes and his perfect nose and his lips. And he has my complexion and a full head of almost black curls that lay flat and slick like a 1920's dapper dan. He is the most beautiful baby I have ever seen.
But he cannot run. He does not laugh. He does not breath on his own.
I have never held him in my arms.
Yet, he is sweet. He responds to my voice. He grips my finger when I tell him stories and sometimes, when I stop, his little eyes flutter open looking for me as if to say "Where did you go?" I assure him that I'm still here. That I will never leave him.
I tell him how proud I am of him. How much I love him and how I will spend my whole life devoted to him if he will stay here with us. I give him pep talks asking him to sit his kidneys down and tell them that they have to start working.
I tell Wes that I wish I could fight this battle for him. That I would endure the three surgeries I had while I was pregnant plus a dozen more if it meant he would get to live the life we want to give him. But I can't fight this one for him. He has to do it himself.
His dad tells him this, too. He begs him to fight and professes his deep love for him. He leans in and talks to him softly. His words are just for Wes, I imagine they're full of encouragement and pride. Promises of the life we will give him. My heart soars with gratitude for the kind of man I have made a life with.
And this is what we do. We come for hours to sit with him in the NICU, stroking his forehead and hands and feet and fingers and toes with sanitized hands through the little windows of his incubator.
We tell him stories and make him heartfelt promises while the nurses and doctors pool around us and spill back into the hall before drifting out before the next shift. They are all kind, with careful smiles and difficult words and earnest game plans that have slowly dwindled down to just one play left: only time will tell and we just have to wait.
And so now we wait. We wait to see what our life with Wes will be like.