As I approached a week past my due date with my first daughter, the doctor spoke of inducement. The baby’s due date was February 22nd of 2008, and 2008 happened to be a leap year. The doctor mentioned the clinical standard was to wait 7 days post-due date for inducement, which would bring us to Friday, February 29th. I hesitated for a moment wondering if it was odd to be born on leap day. I asked if I could be induced one day earlier. The doctor again said the guideline was precisely one week past the due date, and that I had the option of waiting over the weekend until the following Monday which would be March 3rd. I can respect medical guidelines and I’m quite the rule follower, but I felt about 80 months pregnant by this time and was also nervous about birthing my first child. I was not a bit interested in waiting 3 extra days to be induced.
As I tried to exert some control over a non-controllable situation, I pondered how much difference one measly day of this 7 day inducement policy could really make if it could save me the uneasiness I felt of having a leap day baby? The doctor mentioned I could arrive at the hospital on Thursday, February 28th at 6pm to start the process with cervical ripening. There’s always the chance of a fast labor, right? Maybe the baby would be born before leap day!
In the week leading up to inducement, after unsuccessfully trying every old wives tale in the book to cause labor to start, I rolled into the hospital at 5:50pm on Thursday, February 28th ready to get the show on the road. After all, I had a solid 6 hours for my precious bundle to make an appearance before the clock struck midnight. And since making plans when it comes to childbirth is usually laughable, just before 6am the next morning, on February 29th, the leap day baby was born!
It’s actually pretty rare to be born on leap day. Since there are 365 days in a regular year, let’s assume the likelihood of being born on any old day is 1 in 365. Take 365 days times 4 years and add 1 day for February 29th and you have a 1 in 1,461 chance of being born on leap day. There are only about 187,000 people in the US and 4 million people worldwide with a leap year birthday. In the past 12 years since my daughter was born, we’ve only run into 2 other “leapers” or “leaplings,” which are nicknames for people with leap day birthdays (Leap Year Birthday Facts).
The reason leap year exists at all is to keep our modern Gregorian calendar in line with the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. The Earth circles once around the sun about every 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds. If a day wasn’t added to February every four years, 6 hours would be lost from the calendar each year and after 100 years, the calendar would be off by 24 days (Leap Year Explained).
We’ve gotten many perplexed looks and questions as people look at their calendar and try to grasp how someone could have been born on a day that doesn’t actually exist, except for every four years. How does a leap year birthday work? When do you celebrate? You sure are tall for a 2 year (8 year) old! And then there are the other leap day glitches that have caught me off guard over the years – like the time I was booking a flight online and when I tried to enter my daughter’s birthday, as soon as I selected the month of February, the 29th day was no longer available. I do wonder how it will impact her going forward as we think in increments of four. She should be okay to get her license on leap day, since she’ll be 16 and 16 is an increment of four thus a leap year… Will she have to wait until March 1st to celebrate her 21st birthday? Probably.
Now just to add a little more interest to this story, my second daughter was actually born precisely two years later on March 1, 2010. 2010 was not a leap year, since as we’ve established it only happens once every four years. Her due date was actually March 2nd. I am a planner by nature, and I’ve been asked many times if I planned for them to be born on sort of the same day. The answer is no, I’m not that good! While we generally hoped for about a two year age difference between children, I wasn’t mapping out the specific day of delivery to coincide with her sister’s.
Having two kiddos with birthdays on basically the same day has been interesting. Maybe it’s like having twins without having twins? We usually celebrate my older daughter’s birthday on February 28th when it’s not a leap year, in order to give her a day of her own and celebrate my other daughter’s birthday on her real birthday, March 1st. But as soon as kid #1 gets to open her present on the 28th, kid #2 feels there is no real reason whatsoever to wait just one more day, so she ends up opening hers, too. Usually our tradition for celebrating family birthdays is for the birthday guest to choose a restaurant at which to eat on their birthday. But do we really want to go out to eat two nights in a row? Which leads us to usually defaulting to going to a restaurant on kid #2’s birthday. Which of course leads to a serious sibling dispute over who gets to choose the restaurant. “But it’s my birthday so I should get to choose!” “But I didn’t even get a birthday this year so I should get to choose!”
But in truth, my leap day daughter actually likes her unique birthday and thinks it makes her special. I tell her she’s one in a million, or more like one in 187,000 – to be more specific. After all, she has a default “fun fact” that she can use in every single icebreaker she has to participate in from here on out.