April 12, 2011 05:00 PM

Jeremy Cowart

She may have been a model employee throughout her pregnancy, but Allison DeMarcus put her maternity leave to good use at the last minute!

“I worked [for CMT] up until the day before I went to the hospital. I did an Alan Jackson interview … and the next day I was texting my producer that I didn’t think I’d be able to do voice-overs, I’m having a baby!” the wife of Rascal Flatts bassist Jay DeMarcus tells PEOPLE.

“The last month or so was difficult. They were having trouble detecting her movement and then her heart rate started dropping a little bit, so that’s why I went early,” DeMarcus says of daughter Madeline Leigh, born via emergency cesarean at 37 weeks.

Convinced that they were having a baby boy, Jay was nothing short of thrilled when an ultrasound confirmed baby-on-the-way was in fact a girl — prompting Allison to congratulate him on his victory.

“I looked at Jay and said, ‘Well, you win.’ And he was like, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘Because girls always love their daddy to death. She’ll get mad at her mother, but Daddy can do no wrong,'” she laughs.

The proud papa quips, “Add to that I’m working on the road and gone a lot, so she’ll always be glad to see me! It’s like a special occasion.”

Jeremy Cowart


Welcoming their baby girl on Dec. 17, the couple says their daughter is the spitting image of her dad. “[Her hair] was coal black and she looked just like Jay!” says Allison. “She still does. My sister calls her Jayline!”

Jeremy Cowart


However, it was bringing Madeline home from the hospital that initially caught the new parents off-guard. “Pulling away from the hospital, I just wanted to say to the nurses, ‘Are you sure about this? I don’t think either one of us is trained to do this,'” Jay recalls.

“Jay was driving and I was in the back seat with her. That’s a scary drive, that first drive home. You’re thinking, ‘Just get us home safe!'” adds Allison.

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Now three months into parenthood, Jay and Allison have divvied up the night shifts, although the first-time father reveals he often leaves the early morning feedings to his wife. “I don’t do that as much as Ali does, she is a saint about it,” he says. “We take turns getting up. I do late night. With my schedule, I’m up so late that I’m used to being up at 2 a.m.”

But Allison was nowhere to be found when Madeline was a month old and Jay was flying solo on daddy duty! “It was a Sunday afternoon and she was crying. And I’m mentally going through the checklist of everything you’re supposed to do when a baby cries, and nothing worked,” he shares.

“That was a moment when I stared at her and thought, ‘Now what? I am not qualified! I don’t know what to do. This is not a passing phase. I am responsible for this life for the rest of my life!’ It can be pretty daunting.”

Jeremy Cowart


For more on Rascal Flatts and all your favorite country stars, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE Country, on newsstands now. For free country music downloads, go to PEOPLE.com/free.

— Anya Leon with reporting by Kay West

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