Some time very, very early this morning, my husband and I found ourselves awake, our eyes meeting confusedly across the pillow. The baby was scratching. Apparently still asleep, he was clawing determinedly at his upper arm, his fingernails making a gentle papery rustle agains his skin. This was the sound that had woken us up.
My brain was working at half-time, and my body too, my breath moving in a strange, labored, sleep rhythm. I reached out and put my hand over the baby's arm. I stroked his skin gently - there didn't seem to be anything wrong - I took my hand away. I almost drifted back into sleep, but then the sound started again, my eyes drifted open again and again met my husband's. The baby was still scratching. I put my hand on the baby's arm again, stroked gently again, took my hand away again. Again, he began scratching. I wanted to ask my husband what we should do, but I was too sleepy to form the words. "He needs lotion," my husband whispered. "Lotion. Where's the lotion?"
I knew exactly where the baby's lotion was - it was under the right side of couch where the baby had been playing with it before we went to sleep. But from under my heavy haze of sleep, this seemed far, far too complicated a thought to even think about communicating. It was a great effort to lift my head and say, "I'll go get it," and even as I spoke, I was unsure as to how I would ever become vertical and make my way to the living room and get myself down on the floor and under the couch and then back again. "No," my husband said, "it's OK. I can find it."
It seemed like hours later when my husband returned, lotion bottle in hand. "This is all I could find," he whispered. It was not the gentle unscented lotion I use for the baby, but instead the lotion I keep at the kitchen sink - thick, rich, and heavily infused with juniper and lavender and lemon balm. But I was too sleepy to protest, and too relieved that the lotion-getting mission had not fallen to me. I took the bottle from my husband, pumped the lotion into my hand, and gently spread it over the baby's skin - his arms, his legs, under his shirt on his little belly. We watched him, barely daring to breathe. He stirred this way and that, but he did not awaken, and he did not scratch again. After a little while, my husband and I drifted back into sleep too, breathing in the scent of lemon balm heavy in the sheets.