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It's hard to pinpoint the precise moment Maren Morris realized that trying to plan any aspect of motherhood was, as she said, "a fool's errand."
But we'd guess it came at some point on March 23, 2020 when her 30-hour labor got "pretty gnarly," as she put it in a September interview on CBS This Morning. That's when doctors informed her and husband Ryan Hurd that their son remained stubbornly breech and would require a c-section to deliver.
"It was just such an amazing experience to watch a human come into the world and to watch my wife do that," Hurd recalled on The Bobby Bones Show in August. "It was a lot of work and it's scary when you come down to the end of it and realize that you've got to go do it the way you didn't plan on doing it."
Like, at all. With Hayes Andrew Hurd's entree into the world coinciding with the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, they spent those first days as a family of three in a largely empty maternity ward that was "really weird and eerie," Morris added.
But it was back home where it became instantly clear that nothing—not in their suddenly loud three-bedroom Nashville home, nor the world at large—would ever be the same.
"Just the recovery was super hard—not being able to work out and also having my tour get rescheduled," she explained on her pal Bobby Bones' show. Throw in the anxiety and self-doubt that accompanies those first weeks of motherhood and a bout of postpartum depression and you can understand why the 31-year-old feels proud of herself for remaining upright: "It was just a lot mentally and physically."
Fortunately, as a wise woman once noted, when the bones are good, the rest don't matter. And Morris is made of shatter-proof stuff.
"I'm kind of coming through the tunnel now," the musician told CBS This Morning's Anthony Mason. "I feel back to normal." Which means she's able to see their time together as a family as the one silver lining of so many months at home. "We really couldn't have asked for a more magical human to be brought into our lives during this crazy time," she told Bones. "And he's been a good distraction from not being able to tour."
Though, while her 22-date outing is on hold, her career didn't miss a beat as her hit "The Bones" spent 19 weeks atop the country chart, setting a new record for a female artist. She was also named a triple winner at November's CMA Awards winner at the 2020 ACM Awards, her five nominations yielding trophies for Song, Single and Female Vocalist of the Year, and she's poised to gather up to six more at the April 18 Academy of Country Music Awards.
As for her forthcoming third album—her first without beloved producer and songwriter Busbee, who passed away in September 2019—well, she's sure to figure that out, too. "My tour was rescheduled to next year, so hopefully, we can at least do a few dates," she shared with E! News in November. "Vaccine willing, I hope we can. I am just taking my time with album three. I am not in a rush. I just want to write and figure out what I want to say. There's no deadline on album three, but hopefully we can tour next year a little bit."
While she's already written four tracks, her October release, "Better Than We Found It" presumably among them, "I really don't know what my sound looks like from this day on," she admitted to CBS' Mason. "I know the lyrics are country, but the rest is sort of up in the air."
Not that she's worried. This is a woman, after all, whose no-holds-barred views on self-worth, relationships and the state of the world have helped her notch several entries on the country charts and 11 Grammy nods, starting with her 2016 debut "My Church."
As she noted to Mason, "I think that I've made the best art and decisions in my life when I'm scared. I can always tell when a song is too comfort zone, like, I phoned it in. I need it to really challenge me."
So consider this past year or so good practice.
It's a rare mom that emerges from the hospital's maternity ward fully confident in every decision and seemingly world-ending crisis that arises. "You're trying to become a new mother and good parent and do everything right and you just feel like you suck at every level," Morris shared with CBS This Morning of those initial weeks.
Thankfully, she was in tune enough with her emotions to know when she needed to seek out a professional. "I was able to do phone therapy during the pandemic," she revealed. Plus, she had "people that love me around me that are like, 'Hey, if you're drowning right now, there's help.'"
Their first order of business, undoubtedly, was reminding her that no anonymous hatred was worthy of her time.
Because while she had no problem batting down the keyboard warrior who accused her of too much Botox ("Dude, I just went through a pregnancy and we're in the middle of a quarantine. The Botox has long worn off") or the one that took issue with the new assets that breastfeeding brought ("girl BYE. Don't let my boobs knock you on the way out") the hysteria that arose after she posed with Hayes on a float during a July lake outing was a bit too much to bear.
Though Hurd was quick to defend his wife, reminding detractors that "my kid was not unsafe on a float in 1 feet of water being held by an adult with 5 people watching so she could get a picture," their words still cut deep, leading to Morris making the difficult decision to no longer share that part of her world with her 1.5 million Instagram followers. "Honestly, I get so many criticisms of my motherhood on anything I post of Hayes, so I may just discontinue posting photos of him," she tweeted. "Sucks but it's kind of where I'm at."
In the months since, she's given just the rarest glimpse of Hayes' most adorable moments, like his sweet Peter Rabbit-themed first birthday. "He smiled early and stared at you intently like he had known you in a past life," she said in a six-month update. "He eats all the green foods I would never touch, and I think we've only heard him really cry 4 different times. We are honestly just waiting for the spell to wear off and he becomes a terror, but so far, he's just been our sweet, sensitive son."
Growing up the son of two singer-songwriters who met in a shared 2013 studio session, he's already getting a crash course in the basics.
"We play him a lot of music in the morning. So, I played [Beach Boys'] Pet Sounds for him this morning just because, that's one of the best albums ever made," Hurd told E! News last April. "So, he got some Beach Boys and he gets a lot of The Beatles. We're making sure that he's getting a good little musical foundation."
As for everything else, Hurd said, "We're figuring out how to be a family of three and that's really fun and exciting."
Still, for as confident as Morris has become in her growing skills, the parenting journey is one that is always going to be filled with doubts and second-guessing. So there's really no need for those watching at home to pile on with more.
"I just feel like we need to all give each other some grace," she explained at September's ACM Awards of the mom shaming epidemic. "I've learned to be less judgmental all-around just by being a mom because it's extremely humbling. And, yeah, I just think let's all love each other and give each other good advice. Even if it's unsolicited, at least it's good advice."
Above all else, she continued, "I would just say let's do better, and not put someone down that's obviously trying their best." (And for the love of all that is holy, let's stop focusing on women getting their bodies "back." As Morris put it in an Instagram post, "no one took it, i didn't lose it like a set of keys. the pressure we put on mothers to 'snap back' is insurmountable and deeply troublesome. you are and always were a f--king badass. and yeah, I'm proud.")
Because—hello!—parenting is kinda hard? And there's really no excuse for those who seem determined to make it even tougher. "I guess I shouldn't be shocked because I've had plenty of trolls come after me before and I can definitely have thick skin when it comes to someone saying my music is terrible or I'm ruining the sanctity of country music," she said at the ACM Awards. "But, for some reason it feels like an extra betrayal when it's another mother shaming another mother."
Of course, when it comes to her work, even the biggest hater would be hard-pressed to find something to criticize.
Arguably her biggest hit to date, "The Bones" became something of an anthem while people were hunkering down in their homes as a deadly virus—and a long-overdue racial reckoning—raged outside.
"I think a lot of it was maybe the message behind 'The Bones' was taking on a larger theme beyond a love song," she explained on CBS This Morning. "It was, the house don't fall when the bones are good. A lot of people would reach out to me and be like, 'That's our country right now.'"
Morris hasn't had the chance to tour with her runaway smash since the triple platinum single has dominated both country and pop radio. "I did the Houston Rodeo when I was, like, nine months pregnant. It was while it was number one," she said on The Bobby Bones Show of her final outing in early March. "But then it was like, 'I'm just going to have to wait for that moment next year.'"
Nonetheless, her success hasn't gone unnoticed by her contemporaries. Moments after performing at the ACM Awards, the September outing one of her first performances since welcoming Hayes, Morris was stunned to beat out Carrie Underwood, Kelsea Ballerini, last year's winner Kacey Musgraves and nine-time champ Miranda Lambert for Female Artist of the Year.
"I just feel like I never really saw myself winning this," she told reporters afterward. "When I vote on that award in years past, it's for not the best singer of the bunch because that's so subjective. But, I feel like that goes to someone that your peers think had a massive, monumental year. So I am just so humbled that my Nashville community, my industry peeps think that my year has been big because part of it has been in 2020, which has been kind of a s--t show. So, someone saying I had a good year is so much validation."
(Originally published Nov. 11, 2020, at 12 a.m. PT)