Veteran husband, Iron Horse Strong
June 11, 2013
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- His daily routine is defined by his son, the challenges almost commonplace. On a good night, his son sleeps straight through. On a bad night, he'll be up a couple of times.
His 16-month-old alarm clock wakes him up around 8 or 9 a.m. Next is feeding his son breakfast, followed by cleaning up the vomit, which happens after every meal. Typically he'll have a couple hours of recovery before the next feeding/vomit cycle.
After that, it's the appointment of the day; at least 3 times a week. Then, they eat dinner, clean-up the mess, bath time, and then bed, to start the pattern all over again.
For some men, the challenge of dealing with the host of medical problems that come with taking care of a premature child and its associated medical problems would be daunting, to say the least.
To Morgan Waterman, though, it's just what he does.
"All his little problems, the G-tube, stuff like that; she gets freaked out when we have to change it," said Morgan of his wife, Capt. Rebecca Waterman. "She won't do it, but it's not a big deal."
A G-tube is a special tube inserted into a child's stomach to give food and medicine, until the child can chew or swallow on its own.
The child's health issues, which resulted in life-changing decisions for the parents, were unexpected.
Rebecca Waterman, personnel officer, 759th Military Police Battalion, said that after about eight weeks of trying to feed her son Noah in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, they did a brain scan and diagnosed him with cerebral atrophy. His blood was cut off at some point; it could have been for ten seconds, and they believe that he had suffered a stroke in the womb, and stopped practicing swallowing in the womb; an action that is very hard to get back once outside of the womb.
She later discovered that the problems were due to her having a low blood platelet count, a condition that affects about 3% of the population.
Morgan Waterman takes his son Noah to physical therapy once a week, and occupational therapy, which is the feeding clinic, twice a week, peppered with gastrointestinal doctor's visits, and a dietician every three weeks. Some weeks, there is an appointment every day.
Prior to the emergency c-section and complications of birth, Morgan Waterman, who had graduated from college with a bachelor's degree in business administration, had planned on settling into a job, but the arrival of Noah set him on a whole new course.
"We were planning on her getting out, or moving somewhere else, so once I graduated, I wasn't going to find a job right away," said Morgan Waterman, who had served in the United States Marine Corps from 2003-2007. "I would have started looking around, once we decided where we were going to be."
While trying to arrange day-care for the child would be difficult, Rebecca Waterman didn't want to put her husband into a role that he would grow to dislike.
"We sat down and had a talk after Noah came," she said. "I didn't want to force him to be a stay-at-home dad if he didn't want to, and that was the route we were headed towards. My biggest fear was that he was going to resent me for being able to go to work every day, and he was going to be the one to stay home, but it's worked out well."
Their decision for her to stay in the Army was in large part due to the support she received after Noah was born.
"We had a talk before I went back to work," she said. "The Army has given us so much, up to this point; the Army Family was amazing during our NICU stay, me going into labor and everything, because we didn't have any of our own family out here.
"It was rough going for a while, but the Army stuck by us, and the friends we've made in the Army," she said. "We decided to keep rolling for a little while and see where it takes us."
The toughest part for Morgan Waterman is finding personal time, as the only breaks he receives from his daily care of Noah is through respite care, due to the special needs of his son.
"The hardest thing is not being able to get a regular baby sitter; having to coordinate with respite care, having limited hours of that," said Morgan Waterman. "We can't just pick up a phone and say 'Hey, we want to go out for the day. If he didn't have all that stuff, the next door neighbor would come over and we'd pay her twenty bucks to watch him for a while."
While arranging respite care can be difficult, it does allow the couple to have some free time.
"We went to watch our first movie since he's been born, for his 30th birthday, just two weeks ago," said Rebecca Waterman, laughingly. "That was nice, got respite care; we coordinated two weeks out so that we could have respite care with him for four hours so we could go see a movie."
She also appreciates that she can trust her husband to handle Noah without any concerns.
"What I like about our situation is, even normal moms worry about their kids sometimes with dad," she said. "I go to work every day just fine."
Morgan Waterman also makes sure that mom and son still have a good relationship.
"In the beginning I was scared, because I was afraid my kid wouldn't know who I am, but Morgan does an awesome job," said Rebecca Waterman. "When I was working late or anything, he'd call me, or he would take videos for me. He was always adamant that when I come home Noah greets me as mama so that he recognizes who I am. In the beginning he only really took to Morgan, now there's days where he'll sit by the front door and wait for me to come home."
Not only is Morgan Waterman great with Noah, but he's also supportive of his wife.
"What's really awesome is on the weekends, even though I've worked through the week, and Morgan has been stuck with him all week by himself, Morgan still gives me a couple hours to go to the salon, or go do something on my own," she said.
Rebecca Waterman also recognizes how Morgan Waterman's influence has improved her Army career.
"His enlisted experience as a noncommissioned officer helped me better myself, as an officer and as a leader," she said. "I bring scenarios home sometimes on how I should handle it, or whether I should let my NCOs handle it, and he gives me his advice.
"I wouldn't be as strong of a leader if I didn't have his support," she said. "We compensate for each other in a lot of different ways. His strengths are my weaknesses, and his weaknesses are my strengths."
While Rebecca Waterman has always appreciated what her husband brings to the relationship, it was only with the birth of their son and all the responsibilities that came with it, that many of her coworkers recognized his contributions.
"A lot of my previous bosses, commanders have looked at is 'oh wow, you have a stay-at-home husband,' and we'll catch a lot of grief," she said. "Recently they've all come back and I've gone to lunch with them, where they said, 'you know, as much grief as we gave him, everything has worked out perfectly for you guys, with the health issues, with everything going on.'"
Despite all the difficulties they had in the first pregnancy, Rebecca Waterman is pregnant with their second boy, though this time she's fully armed with the knowledge of how to protect her growing baby, with regular doctor visits and antibody infusions to keep her and her son healthy. She is still enjoying her time in the service, looking forward to her next deployment and helping Soldiers be fit to fight. Wherever their road leads though, Morgan Waterman has complete confidence in his wife.
"I think whatever job she does, whether it's in the military or a civilian job, she'll be very good at," he said.
Rebecca Waterman, on the other hand, knows that her husband is the one that makes it possible for her to follow her dreams.
I love what I do, I couldn't do it without him," she said. "I couldn't devote the time to taking care of Soldiers, personnel actions, without him in my corner."