Isela was wheeled out of the hospital the next morning without her daughter in her hands.
“And you two are coming back later this afternoon?” the new nurse asked.
“Yes, we’ll both be here.”
“We’re just taking my stuff to the house. We’ll be back soon.”
They threw her bag in the car not saying a word as Bruno hit a button to turn on the radio.
“Selly…Dr. Thomas said she’s getting stronger. And she’s so tiny. She needs time to get strong. You know that….” Bruno tried to comfort his wife who was still numb.
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way…” Isela finally started to talk.”This isn’t supposed to happen to us. Haven’t we had enough shitty things happen to us? I’d rather just have the cancer come back and kill me instead of her. She’s so much more important than me…Bruno. She’s everything. And we can’t make it better. I just want it to be better. I want to hold her, kiss her, hug her, tell her I love her and that no one will ever hurt her…I want my baby…” He stared at her tears as they say at a stop light.
This is the first time neither of us screwed up. It’s not either of our faults that this is happening and there’s not a thing either of us can say to make either of us feel better. I don’t know how we’re going to get through this…He heard a familiar song come of the radio…he moved his head slowly until George Michael came on singling “Well, I guess it would be nice….”
“Turn it off! Turn it off!” Isela yelled throwing her hand toward the volume button. “Make it stop Bruno! Make it all go away! Oh my god. Oh my god, oh my god.” She started taking short breathes causing herself to get red. He pulled into the driveway stopping not to pull into the garage like he always did. Bruno ran to the passenger side of the car opening it, unhooking her seat belt lifting her up from the seat hugging her.
“Isela…shhhh. Match my breathing. You’re going to be okay…Isela…please…” he rubbed her back as she started to shake even more.
“I’m…having…” Isela stopped to look at him as she fell into his arms again shaking even more. He tried his hardest to not start shaking too. He had learned a long time ago how to deal with his anxious habits..mostly he learned to think about what would happen if he stopped thinking about the things that made him anxious, but today, he knew that if he stopped thinking about Isela and Selena that he might as well stop breathing himself.
“I know…baby…just shhh.” He took her shaking hand walking her slowly inside the house. He grabbed her a bottle of water handing it to her. Her hands were still shaking as she cried even more. He went into the bathroom grabbing the xanax pills they had. They were very careful to only have a month’s prescription in the house, but Isela did pop one or two when work got really hectic.
“Oh my god…I need that…” Isela told him as he walked back with his hand closed with it in his hand.
He sat down next to her handing her the pill. “Take that.” he said softly. He watched her swallow the pill quickly.
“It better make my hands stop shaking…” she blinked several times getting the tears out of her eyes then lifting up her hands. He wrapped his hands around hers to calm her down. “Just breathe…” he said. “Slow. Deep breaths…listen to me, Isela.” he looked at her breathing through his nose and letting out with his mouth. She looked deep into his eyes matching his movements. She calmed down quickly watching him look at her through his own tears. His phone buzzed as she was letting go of his hands to wipe the tears off of his cheek. He looked down at it picking it up quickly. He put it on speaker.
“Bruno…” it was Dr. Thomas, the baby’s pediatrician.
“Hi, Dr. Thomas…”
“You two need to get back here as soon as you possibly can. She’s not doing well.”
They didn’t say anything to each other as they ran out the door.
The normal 15 minute drive took them 7 as Bruno drove as fast as he possibly could to get there.
Isela grabbed her phone to text everyone to get there as soon as they could as he parked the car.
“Isela…” Bruno said as he pulled the keys out of the car. “We can do this.”
She shook her head no as they walked toward the door.
Bruno had put on a hat and sunglasses just to be safe that no one saw him. There were several people that had noticed him. The usually friendly and outgoing Bruno had turned into a quiet and somewhat standoffish Bruno. He led Arissa onto the NICU where Dr. Thomas was standing with nurses.
“Please, Bruno, Isela, sit down.” he led them to an empty waiting room.
“This little girl’s got spunk..but she doesn’t have enough to do it on her own. And you two need to decide if the machines will breathe for her little lungs, heart and kidneys for….”
“No!” Isela yelled. “If she needs them she needs them!” Isela started to cry again.
“She’s not going to ever be able to do this on her own, is she?” Bruno asked.
‘No, Bruno. She’s not….” they heard noise coming from the elevator turning to see all of Bruno’s siblings piling out of the elevator.
“Yuli, Lola and Max are coming. They called me. They’re on their way…” Tahiti told them standing off to the side.
Dr. Thomas continued. “We’ll let you two be with her until she’s gone…”
Jaime hugged Tiara as she started to cry. “Oh my god.” was all they heard.
Dr. Thomas got up from his chair to let them decide what they wanted to do. They looked at each other, both crying. Isela reached over to hug Bruno tightly. She faced his family as she closed her eyes crying into his back. Bruno’s family came over to them wrapping themselves around the couple.
“We love both of you…” Jamie said quietly, always being a constant stream of support.
“They’re over there, Father…over there…” they heard Yuli say franticly. Eric moved over so Isela’s family could get to Isela. Yuli hugged both of them so tightly that Isela winced.
“How could she do this to us?” Isela backed away talking to her sister.
“Sissy…no one knows the answer. She even said you won’t know the answer for a long time. And if she told you…”
“If she told me something terrible would happen. How could it get any worse than this? How?!” Isela yelled. Yuli took her sister by the hands. “You have to believe, Isela. God needs an angel, and his next angel is Selena. She was so perfect that he wanted to keep her as his own. And we’ll all have baby Selena and mama to watch over her. Mama will take care of her, sissy. She will. And you know that.”
“I needed that, Yuliana. That was perfect….thank you.” Isela told her.”But it doesn’t make it any better…”
“Nothing will ever make it better…” Bruno said holding her hand.
Isela closed her eyes saying a prayer to herself with tears coming down her eyes. “Okay. I think I can say good-bye…” Isela told everyone.
They grabbed Dr. Thomas from another room to take them to their daughter. Yuli, Ben, Eric and Claudia went in with them. Everyone else huddled together in the waiting room.
Trisha opened the incubator after gently taking out Selena’s tiny IV lifting off an even smaller mask over her face. She handed Selena to Isela very gently. “How much time do we have?” Isela asked.
“It’s hard to say, hun.” Trisha responded.
Bruno wrapped his arms around Isela touching Selena’s thick brown hair. “I love you, Selena. I love you more than any words….” Bruno said softly.
“We both love you so much, Selena. So much. You will always be our baby.” Isela said rocking her slowly. Isela turned around to face the Priest leaning toward him to hand Selena to him.
“You can hold her…I don’t need her..” he explained.
Isela held on to her daughter tightly listening to her shallow breaths. Three splashes of water went near her chest brining Isela back to the real world. “Amen…” all of them said together. Eric walked him out of the room quickly coming back to Isela and Bruno.
“She’s so pretty…Brunito. She looks like you did.” he told him.
“That’s what mom said.” he said touching her nose while she continued her labored breathing.
She slept in Isela’s arms for several hours. Eric, Claudia, Yuli and Ben left after a few minutes to leave them with Selena.
“Bru….this is too much. I’m sitting here waiting for her to die…no mother should have to do this….ever….”
Bruno held her tightly starting to sing. “This is what it means to be held…How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life…And you survive…This is what it is to be loved and to know…That the promise was that when everything fell…We'd be held.” As he finished Isela felt tears fall on her shirt. She turned around facing him handing him Selena. “You hold her….she’s yours.” Isela said sitting down in a rocking chair watching him sing to her. She knew he would sing to their children…but she didn’t want the first song her daughter heard to be her last. She watched Bruno hold her on his chest as she continued her slow breaths. It made her both sad and warm and fuzzy on the inside. He stopped in the middle of one of his songs walking back to Isela. “She’s breathing less. You need her, Selly. You need to be the one holding her…” He kissed her a final kiss.
As shaky as she thought she would be, Isela held out her hands to take Selena from her husband. “Baby girl, tu Tú eres mi todo, mis esperanzas, mis sueños, mi alma, mi corazón. Siempre estarás conmigo. I pinkie promise…” Isela lowered her head to Selena’s hearing her last small gasp. “Mamá, por favor verla. Por favor cuiden de ella como se preocuparon por nosotros. Tal vez incluso mejor de lo que nos cuidó. Dale muchos abrazos y besos. Cantar con ella. Jugar con ella. darle lo que no podía. Vida. Mamá, todavía tengo fe. Yo, nosotros, no entiendo por qué ... pero por favor. Por favor, cuida de ella. Y le digo todos los días que nos ama tanto que Dios quería. Por favor.” Isela finished talking looking up at Bruno. She could hardly see his eyes through her tears.
Translation: Mama, please watch her. Please take care of her like you cared for us. Maybe even better than you cared for us. Give her lots of hugs and kisses. Sing to her. Play with her. give her what we couldn't. Life. Mommy, I still have faith. I, we, don't understand why...but please. Please, take care of her. And tell her every single day that we loved her so much that God wanted her. Please.
“Preciosa, estoy aquí. Voy a cuidar de ella. Con mi corazón y alma. Voy a hacer todo que quería, y más…” Isela Heard her mother’s voice.
Translation: Precious, I am here. I am here to take care of her. I will do as you wish and then some.
“Bruno…my mom is here. I know it. She said she’s going to take care of her. With her heart and soul. She’s going to do everything and then some…”
“She will, Isela. She will.” Bruno said sitting down next to Isela.