August 31, 2007

Dream a Little Dream …

My wife and I were lounging around last Saturday night watching our 6-week-old daughter snooze, when all of a sudden she hit me with one of those mind-bending questions that came dangerously close to making my brain explode:

"Do you think babies can dream?"

Now I'm smart, but not I- Know- Whether- A- Baby- Dreams- Or- Not smart. I'm smart in the sense that I can successfully answer questions like "How do you play Sudoku" and "Did Justin Timberlake, in fact, bring sexy back?" I gave her question some serious thought, though, weighing the pros and cons, debating the obvious issues at hand, and came up with a very profound:

"Why not?"

It's not implausible, is it? After all, babies are an awful lot like adults. They're grumpy when they're hungry. They're grumpy when they're sleepy. They're grumpy when MTV rates some Eminem video #1 on its Best Videos of All-Time List, even though anyone with half a brain knows it's impossible to top Michael Jackson's "Thriller." (Perv or not, he rocked the casbah with that one.) If babies have the mind capacity for all of this, I'd like to think that they can and do dream.

So we spent the next hour staring at Ella in her car seat, monitoring her every breath, trying to determine if she did, in fact, show any signs of dreaming. But, just like you'd expect from any baby, all she did was drool down the side of her onesie and drop a fart so loud that our neighbors stopped by to "make sure everything was OK." Truthfully, I wasn't.

So I began to search for an answer. According to medical research, babies do experience REM, which is often associated with dreaming. And some doctors—who shall remain nameless but are quoted in several arenas—say that this direct link proves that babies dream. Of course, that's a very big assumption and there's still no factual proof to back this up. Remember, just because you hear the sink running in the bathroom doesn't mean your guest washed his hands.

Now, just for a minute, let's pretend that there's conclusive evidence that babies dream. This begs an even more important question: If babies can dream, what do they dream about? Like any savvy, well-educated journalist, I turned to Google for answers. Some folks seem to think that babies dream about heaven. Others believe that they dream about the womb. And several more (read: a Yahoo user by the name of LuckyLou77 who, for all I know, could be a week shy of her 11th birthday) believe they dream about the one experience they've had so far—popping out of their mama.

While all these answers sound reasonable, none of them seem to click with me. I just can't believe that babies can handle such big and complex ideas. I think it's a safer bet that when Ella is tossing and turning in her crib, she's less likely remembering her birth and more likely fantasizing about a giant bottle filled with boob juice. Hell, if I was a baby, that's all I'd dream about.

So the moral of this story is that babies may or may not dream. No one really knows. And as Ella sat there in her car seat, content as can be, I realized that it really doesn't matter if our infant dreams. As long as she's sleeping soundly, I'm happy. Plus, when it comes down to it, all that really matters is that when she wakes up, mom's around to clean up the giant load in her pants.

The Life of Dad is updated most Fridays (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

August 17, 2007

A Star is Born …

Babies really have the life. Don't believe me? Today marks Ella's one-month birthday and, in a closed-door interview, I asked how she intends to celebrate, to which she replied: Mbnmadna. While this sounds like gibberish, it isn't—it's just baby talk. Luckily for all, I've become an expert in this field and I know "Mbnmadna" clearly translates into:

"I plan to spend the day eating, sleeping, pooping, being adored by everyone and then modeling for a book."

Modeling for a book?

That's right, our little girl is going to spend her "birthday" afternoon in front of a studio camera posing, smiling and looking adorable. If that's not enough, she's even negotiated a chauffeur (Brittany), a diaper changer (Brittany) and the right to sleep in between takes.

Boy, they really grow up fast, don't they?

This all came about Thursday afternoon, when my good friend Jessica (or The Jypsy, as some of you may remember her) stopped by my cube. It started with our typical weekly chat: How's your house? How's your spouse? I really, really like your blouse. When we ran out of words that rhymed, we got to the heart of the visit:

"Brian, and you can totally say no to this, but I'm editing a book about knitted gifts for people and one chapter is devoted to kids. Because Ella is so darn cute, would you mind if we took some photos of her in knitted garb and used her in the book?"

"Will she get paid?"

"Well, no … but she'll get a free copy of the book."


Now, I don't mean to brag, but Ella is taking after her old man. Once upon a time, many moons ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I, too, was a model. The year was 1984 and a young Brian A. Klems made his way down the Shilitos (now Macy's) runway wearing a dashing, debonair, manly outfit that looked something like this: click here.

My mom was proud. The crowd loved me. The critics used words like "masterful," "breathtaking" and "this generation's Scott Baio." I was on top of the world—less because of the fame and more because they gave us free juice and cookies after the show.

Of course, I eventually had to walk away from the spotlight. The modeling agency cited "creative differences" as the reason for our split, but that's just a cover. I left the limelight to pursue bigger dreams like playing shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds and being featured on NBC's Website with Dwight the Bobblehead.

Now, I don't want you to think that I'm pressuring her into a modeling career. I mean, come on, she's one-month old. Like any good parent, I don't care what profession my daughter chooses. In fact, modeling would likely be at the bottom of my list, but it's hard to pass up a fun opportunity like this. And years from now it'll be cool to look back at that book and tell her stories about her "modeling days."

"Ella, I remember when you drooled all over that cameraman and then, like a polite and well-mannered baby, you licked it right up! Your mom and I were so proud."

So next March, when you're hanging out at your local bookstore looking for a nice spring read, I recommend picking up a copy of Closely Knit by Hannah Fettig. If you do, I'm sure our little star would be happy to autograph the copy for you—of course, it'll look less like a signature and more like sneeze mark.

What a wonderful way to spend your one-month birthday—on location, in the spotlight, being the center of attention. We can all be so lucky to "Mbnmadna."

The Life of Dad is updated most Fridays (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

August 10, 2007

The Big Day Arrives …

People always say how difficult labor is. They tell you horror stories about uncomfortable delivery rooms, hours of pain and a dinner menu consisting of nothing but ice chips. Dads-to-be, I want to put you at ease a little by letting you know that these people—and I want to be perfectly clear on this—are complete and total liars. I found labor to be quite easy and, other than a mild paper cut I sustained while filling out an insurance form, painless.

The time was five p.m. on Monday, July 16. I was over at my parents’ house playing with my new MacBook Pro—a laptop that is so cool, it took the head cheerleader to prom and got to second base—twice! I called my wife to brag and to see what time she’d be leaving the office.

“I think I might be going into labor.”
“Holy (expletive)! Are you serious?”
“I’m going to send out a few more e-mails and finish up some odds and ends …”
“Are you crazy!?! Get your rump in the car. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Come. Home. Now.”

The next 20 minutes were the longest of my life. I paced around the house. Was she coming home? Was she tidying her desk? Was she auditioning for VH1’s “The World Series of Pop Culture”? Only one thing was certain: Within the next 24 hours Steven the TV and Rico the Snoogle were going to have a new brother or sister.

Finally, Brittany’s car pulled into the driveway. She was in obvious pain, less because of her contractions and more because she was listening to Dane Cook's standup. She walked in the house, set down her purse, grabbed my arm and started screaming.

“They are 30 minutes apart. Call the doctor.”

After several rings the doctor picked up. When I explained the situation he politely told me to stop wasting his time and call him back when the contractions started occurring every three minutes.

Brittany, bent over in pain, turns to me. “What’d he say?”

Now, if you’ve ever been around a pregnant woman on the verge of having a baby, the last thing she wants to hear is, I know you’re in pain and it’s going to get worse … and happen more frequently … and when it gets as bad as you think it’ll get, then we can call the doctor and ask for permission to go to the hospital.

“I don't know. I think he was drunk.”

For the next couple hours, Brittany bounced around the house like a drunk Tasmanian Devil. First on the couch, then on the floor. She ran upstairs because it was warmer, then back downstairs because she was too hot. She did enough laps around the coffee table to wear a foot-grove into the carpet. I was afraid that if the contractions didn't reach the three-minute mark soon, she'd bore a hole into the wall with her fist.

When the time finally arrived, I called the doc back and he gave us the OK to load up the car. I grabbed her beautifully packed hospital bag, a stuffed chicken to use as a focal point and a Hot Pocket because, well, I was hungry.

Most who know me know I'm a fairly slow cautious driver, but not today. Not on this big day. I drove like a madman on the way to the hospital, going 35 mph in a 30-mph zone. I weaved in and out of traffic, not because I had to but because my alignment's a mess. And I even made turns without (gulp) signaling! That's right, throw away that key officer—I'm one royal bad dude.

After parking the car, I raced into the hospital, running up to the 9th floor, the pregnancy floor, and signed in. "Forget something?" the nurse asked. So I rushed back down to the car, opened the door, grabbed my lovely wife (who was not amused) and made my way back up to the 9th floor.

We were moved into the triage room where the nurse kicked me out to ask Brittany a series of questions.

"Why am I not allowed in there?" I asked the receptionist.
"They want to ask her questions without you there so she can answer honestly," said the receptionist. "They essentially want to know if you beat her."
"What, like in Scrabble?"

No one—and I mean no one—laughed.


Moments later, we were transfered to a delivery room. A man walked in and shoved a needle in Brittany's back, filling her with what I can only describe as a miracle. The miracle's name was "epidural" and all of a sudden the pain was gone. She stopped screaming, stopped yelling at me and transformed back into the pleasant woman I had married. Needless to say, I gave that man a hug.

The next several hours were a blur. I can't exactly remember the order, but I know these things happened: I called family and friends, family and friends showed up, the doctor broke Brittany's water, I drank four Mt. Dews, Brittany's sister (Melanie) took bets on time-of-birth and gender of baby, I peed out four Mt. Dews, Brittany's other sister (Ali) video-taped her boyfriend sleeping in the waiting room, my sister (Jennie) text-messaged me every few minutes asking for updates and my softball team (too many names to list) won by way of a run-rule.

When it finally came time to push, I was given the job of holding leg number two. Pushing isn't like you see in the movies or on television, where the woman pushes constantly until the baby arrives. The pushing process can span hours and the mother-to-be pushes only about 10% of that time. Reminds me of an after-lunch bathroom break.

Brittany made her first push, which lasted 10 seconds, followed by two more 10-second pushes. When she finished, she peered around her leg and said, and I am not making this up, "Am I done?" That will always be one of my fondest moments from the night.

Push. Push. Push. Break. Push. Push. Push. At precisely 3:51 p.m. a baby emerged from Brittany's who-ha—a beautiful baby with two arms, two legs, hair and her very own who-ha. A little baby girl. A daddy's girl. I couldn't have been happier.

It was the most amazing thing I've ever experienced (and I was at game two of the '90 World Series!). I knew at that moment my life had forever changed, but it had changed for the good. And, as I got to hold Ella Jane for the first time, only one thing crossed my mind:

The psychic was wrong.