She wasn’t trying to make a good impression.
It was a casual, post-Thanksgiving hangout to study for finals — she was in school for dance therapy — with a classmate who lived with her boyfriend and his brother, Chris. Morgan had just come from a rehearsal — still sweaty, dressed in a T-shirt and yoga pants. She snacked on chocolate pie, made crude jokes, and showed Chris a photo of the dog she planned to foster.
She got home and found a text from her classmate: “Somebody likes you.”
They went on their first date a week later — tacos, a taproom, a foiled trip to play air hockey when they discovered the bowling alley was rented for a private party. Both loved the outdoors: cycling, running, hiking on the Appalachian Trail. And their temperaments dovetailed: “I kept him busy, and he helped me slow down,” Morgan says.
“Before we met, I didn’t think I would ever be married,” Chris says. “I could never see myself being ‘happily ever after.‘ ” It took him two-and-a-half years to say “I love you,” a little more than four to propose, proffering a ring after a daylong hike in Nicaragua, as the two ate lunch on top of a volcano overlooking a massive lake.
The stone was a pale-pink morganite.
“I’m quirky. I don’t go for the traditional,” Morgan says. Their wedding venue, on a sticky July day in 2017, was the Elmwood Park Zoo, with a free-range cocktail hour so guests could wander among the primates and giraffes.
Before meeting Morgan, Chris hadn’t envisioned himself as a parent. “But when I fell for her, that changed a lot of things. I wanted to share my life with her and have the experience of having kids.” They were pregnant within a month.
Throughout the pregnancy, Morgan danced and taught yoga and Pilates. The baby — a boy, they learned — was breech, but an external version at 37 weeks flipped him into a head-down position. They hoped for a natural delivery at Lifecycle WomanCare, a birth center in Bryn Mawr.
But when Morgan was 8 centimeters dilated, her labor stalled. “I hadn’t slept for two days. I got to the point where I was begging for a C-section.” They transferred to Bryn Mawr Hospital where, after an epidural, a Pitocin drip, and two pushes, Fletcher was born. Chris helped guide the baby’s shoulder as he emerged.
What followed were weeks of utter exhaustion: Chris, a med student, wearing the baby in a front carrier while holding his laptop to watch videos on microbiology; Morgan trying to manage Fletcher’s nightly “witching hour” of cluster feeding and inconsolable crying.
They wanted a second child; first, though, were two accidental pregnancies that ended in miscarriages. When they conceived again — intentionally, and within a month of trying — those losses left a residue of anxiety.
Morgan continued to work — practicing dance-movement therapy, supervising students — and dance, though this time there was a toddler to chase. At first, Fletcher was oblivious to her pregnancy; later, he’d pull up Morgan’s shirt during story time so Baby Sister could hear the books, too.
“The hardest thing for him was late in the pregnancy, when I just couldn’t carry him,” she says.
As her May due date neared, and the world contracted with stay-at-home orders and new hospital protocols, she worried about giving birth and about the weeks afterward. After Fletcher’s birth, Morgan’s mother had come to stay with the couple for a month, but this time, they’d have to do without hands-on help.
Labor began — contractions every 10 minutes — while Morgan was on a supervision phone call with a student. By the time she ended the call, her contractions were five minutes apart. They arrived at the birth center just before 7 p.m., and Juniper was born at 10:25, nearly emerging during the Snoop Dogg track on their playlist, “Drop It Like It’s Hot.”
It was the birth Morgan wanted but didn’t quite believe was possible. “At every stage of progress, I was thinking: This is where it stops. This is where I get stuck. Now I know what it feels like to deliver a baby without an epidural. It was really exciting. It was such a relief.”
Now they are home, parenting in the midst of a pandemic. Friends bring food and walk the dog, but no one comes into the house. They navigate Zoom calls while playing with dump trucks. During med school lectures — he’s now a fourth-year at Temple University — Chris turns off his camera so classmates don’t see him helping Fletcher pull up his pants after a trip to the bathroom.
“Work from home becomes work all the time because there are no office hours anymore,” Morgan says. Before Juniper was born, Chris volunteered at the hospital, helping to set up the Liacouras Center as an overflow site for patients. He stopped that work in late April to reduce the risk of exposing his family to COVID-19; now he’s making hundreds of face masks at home and wishing he could do more.
He still hasn’t finished painting the nursery, a botanical color palette of terra-cotta pink, off-white, and dark green. And Morgan worries about being alone with a toddler and an infant when Chris returns to clinical rotations in the summer.
What both know is that parenthood has shown them what is possible — ”how capable you are, in the moment, of doing whatever needs to be done,” Morgan says.
It’s been difficult, they say, to see their son struggle through quarantine. “Fletcher play with other kids?” he’ll ask plaintively at the breakfast table. But they also watch him care for Juniper: giving her a kiss on the head before nap time or reassuring her when she cries. “It’s OK, Baby Sister,” he’ll say. The more she wails, the louder he insists. “Baby Sister, IT’S OK!”