Spring.

Robin has a fever. On our way back from the sitter’s, he sits in a red-cheeked funk, plump and agog. Bands of March sun blind him, then leave, then blind him again. He’s annoyed, but too distant to say so. I watch him through the bizarre network of mirrors we’ve built to indulge my paranoia: Is he choking? Is he breathing? Can he see me?

I wonder, if fevers consume, what’s his eating? What infant head tricks does 102 inspire? He never sits like this: hot, reflective. In hindsight, he never did. While I was pregnant, family kept asking: Does he move a lot? Is he active? I shrugged, having nothing to compare him to. Turns out, he did. He was. After dinner, Stewart and I watched the Olympics, and I’d sit fat, grinning, on the couch while Robin raced the athletes in Russia.

We almost bought a fetal Doppler to monitor his heartbeat. I’m shocked we never did. Like the car’s mirrored constellation, the Doppler could equip our worry: What’s he doing now? What’s he doing now? The answer, of course, was always: growing, sleeping, being. But given our year, we wondered.

In January, when I was about twenty weeks pregnant, my doctor called. I was back in New York for work, and I ducked into a side street to avoid the subway clamor. I remember the way my fingertips found the coarse groove in the bricks. I didn’t quite understand. Pelvic rest? No sex? No exercise? She had been watching my placenta for weeks, waiting for it to buoy, like a balloon, to its happy position. But it refused. Stubborn anchor, this one sat red and rooted over my cervix, blocking the exit, creating quite the fire hazard. I cut her short: What are the risks?

The risk is blood; well, hemorrhage. Many cases of placenta previa, my diagnosis, result in episodes of bleeding. One if you’re lucky, more if you’re not. As the cervix begins to thin in late pregnancy, bleeding becomes a greater hazard. Later, I’d learn the other risks were pre-term birth, blood transfusions, the NICU. Later, I’d learn the other risks were constant vigilance, unrest, perma-anxiety. And so began our pregnancy—the fraught one, the high-risk one. The one we say we survived.

We listened to Robin’s heartbeat once, for three hours, after a minor bleed saw us driving, numb and dumb, through each of Bennington’s early-morning yellow lights. We sat stiff in a hospital room while the nurses collected reams of Robin’s written heart. March sun exposed our pallor, then March sun went away. We sat, blanketed, blinded, in a room like an ocean, full of the dull, far-away sound of an unnamed heartbeat.

But Robin has a fever. I hum, feeling the sound reach my hands on the wheel, waiting for the sun to warm each bald, white knuckle. We sit, my son and I, in a moving greenhouse and wait for the fever to pass. One fallow field, another, then another. His eyes close. We move on.

In the water.

Last night, while I gave Robin a bath, I poured water from a cup into the shallow tub. For a while, he watched the thin braid fall from the lip and disappear into his lap. He’d follow the cup to its height and then wait, quiet, until the water returned to him. After a time, he wanted more. Now, as I tipped the rim toward him, he tried to catch what was surrendered. More than that, he tried to hold it, the turning rope of water, until the rope ran out and the bath turned colder.

I often think about insanity. Or I should say, I often think about the anecdotal definition of insanity: repeating the same action over and over again but expecting a different result. Robin does this. He once tried to lift a string from a fraying pant twenty times just to have it float gently back to his pink knee. He’s thrown a wooden ball into a wall until I had to decide the sound was a metronome to stop my mind from revolting. Last night, as I poured the water, I expected he’d dissolve in failure, undone by the confusion of an unusable rope. But he didn’t. He lifted his wrinkling torso into an athlete’s position, and with two hands, not one, challenged water to run.

Stewart and I discovered we were pregnant in Nantucket. Or rather, I discovered first. I walked into an island drugstore early one Thursday morning and grabbed a bright test—the one with the lines, not the one with the words. I used their bathroom without asking. This wasn’t a bathroom, really, more like a broom closet with a toilet and shower. And one bright window that backlit my face in the mirror. That was a year and a half ago, but I still remember how young my face looked then. I mumbled some words to my shadowed head while I watched two pink lines branch among me, the mops and bleach.

Later that day, my mother threw up. It had been at least a year since I watched her eat an untroubled dinner. Housebound, she waited while Stewart and I went biking again. Past abandoned off-peak rentals, sandy evergreens and pubs, we settled into a silent, movable hope only early love allows.

The week before we left for Nantucket, Stewart lost his job. We were living in New York and close to broke. One week later, my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer, just a few days after a nurse offered Stewart and I chipper congratulations.

How many times over the last year have I tried to grab a rope of water? How many times, failing, have I cracked up expecting something different? And yet, today, it’s already spring in Vermont.

Night Diary 1.

7:03pm: We’re “home.” I forgot to leave the porch light on. I show Stewart how to open the front door with his key. One turn, then two. Etched in the knocker is the name of our landlord’s father, long dead. The garage door is open from the movers.

7:23pm: I undress Robin in his new room. No lamps lit, we move under the harsh light of the overhead fixture—circa 1960—limbs throwing clean shadows on the dun-colored walls. Robin looks. Robin looks at me.

7:40pm: Bath water runs. I hold Robin on my hip next to the porcelain sink, and we stare, far away, as the tub fills with soapy water. One foot, then two. He finds the boundaries of his new boat, slick and unfamiliar, and at one far corner turns, eyelash dripping, and looks. He looks at me. On the wall behind us, a medicine cabinet rusts under the mirror.

9:41pm: Stewart and I lie on the mattress while Robin stirs next door. There are no curtains. One empty branch moves outside. Two. I think about the Arundel Tomb, the poem and the piece. Lucky and animated, Stewart and I turn our heads to face each other.

“What do you think?”

“I don’t know.”

2:13am: Robin cries. One diagonal blade of light bisects the bed where we are not sleeping. From the bathroom, a vent hums.

I turn an ancient gold knob, then another. Robin stands in his crib, announcing himself to the length of the room. All cavern and wood, his Grand Canyon responds. And I interrupt the introductions with a hooded hug, muffled and blunted. I hum a song we learned together. I think the words but don’t say them.

4:36am: Branches. Vent. Blade. I blink. We’re outside, having a birthday party. One red picnic table sits in the yard. White frosted cupcakes dot white ceramic servers, and there are lemons in pitchers. I shift. We’re outside again, another birthday party, only it’s later and we’re older. All the kids are taller and running.

I remember the graffiti in Robin’s room. I saw it when I first visited this house, someone else’s home. I lingered in the bedroom while the landlord, still talking, left the hall. I opened the closet and saw, at kid’s height, the word “boys” scrawled on the wall.

Boys. We’re having two, I think. One, then two. Boys.

5:12am: Robin is awake. Husband and wife slap feet on a dirty floor. Adult weight echoes down the hall as we stumble to sterilize a bottle, to remember the steps.

I remember the picture of bringing Robin home. I stand, pale, under a hanging plant. There’s a mailbox with no name. In the next photo, Stewart does the same, but looks out. We’re both one stoop step off the spring dirt.

5:17am: Robin drinks while he slow blinks in our chair, in our new corner. “Boys” sits etched in the dark. I watch the neighbors silent speak across the yard.

5:36am: We’re in bed. Robin sits and slaps daddy’s head. Slaps daddy’s head again. Robin giggles and falls over. Sits up. Falls over.

Robin tries the mama. Pulls the mama’s hair, eats the hair, pulls the hair again. Slaps mama. Bites mama’s cheek. Bites. Bites harder. I shriek. Robin giggles and falls over. Sits up. Falls over.

5:52am: He blinks. Turns his head on the pillow. Blinks. Blinks and looks. Looks at me. Looks at me. Sleeps. Sleeps harder.