By Staff Sgt. Wallace Bonner
4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
Morgan Waterman’s 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 of hours before the next feeding/vomit cycle.
After that, it’s the appointment of the day, at least three times a week. They eat dinner, clean up the mess, followed by bath time and 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 his associated medical problems would be daunting, to say the least.
To Morgan Waterman, 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,” Morgan said 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 his 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 10 seconds, and they believe he suffered a stroke and stopped practicing swallowing while in the womb, an action hard to get back after birth.
Rebecca Waterman later learned the problems were because her blood platelet count was low, a condition that affects about 3 percent of the population.
Morgan Waterman takes Noah to physical therapy once a week and occupational therapy — the feeding clinic — twice a week, peppered with gastrointestinal doctor’s visits and a dietician. Some weeks, there is an appointment every day.
Prior to the emergency cesarean section and complications of birth, Morgan Waterman, who has a bachelor’s degree in business administration, planned on settling into a job. But Noah’s arrival set him on a whole new course.
“We were planning on her getting out (of the Army) or moving somewhere else, so once I graduated,
I wasn’t going to find a job right away,” said Morgan Waterman, who served four years in the Marine Corps.
“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 (be), and that was the route we were headed toward. 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.”
Army Family steps up
Their decision for her to stay in the Army was in large part due to the support she received after Noah was born.
“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,” he said.
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 babysitter, having to coordinate with respite care, having limited hours of that,” he said. “We can’t just pick up a phone and say ‘Hey, we want to go out for the day.’”
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 (Morgan’s) 30th birthday, just two weeks ago,” said Rebecca Waterman. “That was nice. We coordinated two weeks out so that we could have respite care with him for four hours so we could go see a movie.”
Rebecca Waterman said she 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.”
Rebecca Waterman ensures she and her 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.”
Morgan Waterman is 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 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.
NCO days live on
She also recognizes how her husband’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 co-workers recognized his contributions.
Rebecca Waterman is now pregnant with their second boy; 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.
Wherever their road leads, 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 who 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.”