Not betad.

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"Please, please go to sleep, baby. Daddy's so tired."

Maddie just grabs my nose while she smiles and babbles. Which I should be grateful for, I know. This is so much better than the nights we stayed up crying or even the feedings every few hours, inevitably followed by a burp and a diaper change. Those nights seemed like they would never end. This is a cake walk in comparison.

I walk her around our small apartment, back and forth, back and forth. My arms ache and I'm so tired. It's been almost a week of this. I knew parenting wouldn't be easy, but I now understand the wisdom of having someone to do this with. That wasn't in the cards for us, but God, could I use some help.

"Ba ba ba," Maddie says happily, tapping my cheek with her little palm. I smile and kiss her tiny hand despite my exhaustion. Watching her grow and change has been an amazing experience. She has yet to say her first word, but it can't be far behind–she literally seems to learn something new every day.

Just this week I watched her pull herself upright of the first time while she held onto the coffee table. She promptly let go and fell on her little tush, but she's since mastered cruising around our apartment holding onto anything she can get her hands on. I'm just glad her first time was here with me instead of at daycare with Mrs. Cope. I'm grateful she takes such good care of my baby, but I hate when I miss the important milestones. That I missed the first time she crawled still makes me inexplicably sad. I want to be there for all of her firsts. Except maybe her first date. I'll probably have murder in my heart and a shotgun in my hand.

After what seems like forever, she rubs her eyes and lays her head on my shoulder. She clings to my neck when I try to put her in her crib, so I admit defeat and lay her on the pullout with me. She's restless so I rest my hand on her tummy, calming her so she can sleep. I'm not far behind, though I'm so worried about rolling over onto her I never fall into a deep sleep.

Predictably, I'm a zombie the next morning. I briefly consider dropping Mad at Mrs. Cope's and sleeping all day, but I don't really have any money in reserve and if I don't work, I don't get paid. Besides, Emmett is just now comfortable sending me out on my own. I don't want to jeopardize any ground I've gained by not showing up because I'm tired.

I drop Maddie at Mrs. Cope's in the morning and then head over to the office to see Emmett. I'm about to finish up my first solo job and we're going to evaluate and see what I'll be doing next.

When I walk in, Rosalie's there, leaning on the edge of Emmett's desk talking to him, Adam sleeping in his stroller next to them. I clear my throat from the doorway so they know I'm here.

"Hey, Edward," Rosalie says with a smile when she turns and sees me. Her smile falters when she gets a good look at me. "You all right?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," I ray, rubbing a hand through my hair. I'm not, and I know it's obvious, but I don't want to make a big deal about it.

"No, you're not," she says, crossing her arms over her chest. "You look exhausted. What happened to you?"

"Leave him be, Rosie," Emmett calls from behind his desk.

"I will not. He looks like he hasn't slept in a month. Is Maddie sick?"

"Um, no. She's just been fussy at night and only settles down when I walk around with her for a while and then she usually has to sleep with me." I let out a long breath, actually relieved to be sharing this with someone, especially Rose, who's always been great with Maddie and me. Plus, Adam's not much older than Maddie so she and Emmett are going through much of what I am.

"I thought she's was sleeping in her crib."

"She was. I'm not sure what changed."

"Hm. Maybe it's just a phase. Adam gets clingy sometimes too."

"Maybe," I say with a shrug. "We have an appointment with her doctor next week, so I'll ask her about it."

"What are you going to do in the meantime? You look like hell."

I chuckle and shake my head. "Keep doing what I've been doing, I guess."

"Nonsense. You need some sleep." She turns to Emmett. "Can't he have the day off?"

"Rosie. This isn't the–"

"It's fine," I say, cutting in. "It's Friday so I can nap tomorrow when she does."

"No way. Come over tonight," she all but demands. "Spend the night. You can have the guest room and I'll set up the pack and play in Adam's room. He sleeps like a rock."

"I appreciate the offer. But I don't know if she'd sleep away from me."

"Even if she keeps you up tonight, I can take her in the morning so you can sleep in."

"But what ab–"

"No buts. Come for dinner and spend the night."

I look at Emmett but he just shrugs, a smile on his face. "There's no talking to her when she's like this. You better just come over."

"Um, okay, thanks," I say, rubbing the back of my neck. I can't imagine what it'll be like to sleep in on a Saturday morning. It'll be the first time in almost seven months.

"Good, it's settled. We'll see you around six." I nod and she walks over the Emmett, gives him a kiss, then wheels the stroller out of the office.

"Have a seat," Emmett says.

We spend a little while discussing my progress, which he's pleased with, and then he tells me he's giving me a two dollar an hour raise. It's a windfall.

I show up at their house later that night with Maddie in tow and Rosalie sets me up in their guest room.

After dinner and a few hours of playing, I attempt to put Maddie down in the portable crib, but she's having none of it. She cries and reaches her little arms out to me and I'm powerless to witness that and not pick her up. I know at a certain point I'm supposed to let her just cry, but tonight isn't the night. I pick her up and she stops crying instantly, putting her head on my shoulder and her thumb on her mouth.

I take her to the guest room and settle her next to me; she's asleep almost immediately, her little body as close to mine as possible without being on top of me. So now I can't sleep for fear of squashing her like a pancake while she's sleeping. Not waking up if I roll over onto her is even more of a worry tonight since I'm so exhausted.

I'm so tired and frustrated I'm on the verge of tears.

I take a few deep breaths and look at my daughter's sweet face as she sleeps. I think about how much my life has changed in the past seven months and I can't find it in myself to regret the changes–to regret her. She's amazing and beautiful and she makes me a better person every day she's alive.

I doze for a while but don't fall into a deep sleep, worried as I am about suffocating her. Eventually I scoop her up and bring her to Adam's room, praying she doesn't wake up. I lay her down gently and wait, but she just throws her arms over her head and continues to sleep.

I sneak out of the room with a sigh of relief and head back to the guest room. I'm asleep as soon as I pull the covers over myself.

I sleep until just past noon the next day.

I feel rested, but my head is heavy, and so is my heart. Because when I go downstairs after a shower, Maddie holds her arms out to me and starts to cry.

I pick her up with a tight throat and watery eyes. "It's okay. I'm here." I hold her as she cries and clings to me, remembering what I'd read about separation anxiety. The guilt of making my daughter think, for even a second, that I wasn't coming back is a heavy weight on my chest.

And then the guilt is replaced with a feeling as close to pure joy as I'd ever felt when Maddie lifts her head and looks at me. She puts her little palms on my cheeks and speaks her first word.


Thank you for reading.

I'll likely write one more outtake, I just don't know what it'll be yet. I have a few ideas floating around in my head.

Until next time.