Why Some Parents Push For a Leap Day Baby

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With the arrival of daughter Jade on February 29, 2012 at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, Louise and David Estes completed a milestone in planned pregnancies. Jade was their third child to be born on Leap Day, the calendar-correcting anomaly that arrives every four years to compensate for the additional six hours it takes Earth to orbit the sun every 365 days.

Jade’s two siblings, Xavier and Remington, were born in 2004 and 2008, respectively. The Estes told The Daily Herald that while Xavier and Remington arrived via happenstance, Jade’s birth was planned so the trio could share in the exclusivity that comes with being a “leapling.” David thought it would be “really cool” to have offspring that could enjoy big blow-out celebrations every four years.  

Even with proper conceptual planning, a February 24 due date materialized; Louise was five days overdue until she was ready to be induced.

Amazingly, the Estes only managed to tie the record for most children born on Leap Day. In 1960, 1964, and 1968, Karin Henriksen of Norway delivered three boys, earning them a slot in the Guinness Book of World Records. Even more incredibly—though not apparently Guinness-worthy—was Christine McDonnell, who managed to birth one set of twins in 1956 and another set in 1960, both on Leap Day, the latter landing her on the front page of Dublin-area newspapers.

That kind of notoriety may be what drives some expectant parents to do their best to coordinate births with a calendar date so unusual that not even Hallmark usually bothers making cards for it. On Leap Day in 1948, Mike Palm was born; brother Herb followed in 1952. Though they were unable to confirm their late mother, Lilian, had scheduled her C-section for Herb with that in mind, in 2012 the brothers told The Washington Post that she called local media every four years to trumpet the fact and get her boys some exposure. Another Leap Baby, Don Ruge, told New York Magazine that having his birthday announced at work elicits a few gasps that he takes a little pleasure in.

In other cases, a parent will want to share the date with their children. Utah native Camille Kesler’s father was born February 29, and so was she. When Camille had her first child, she had her sights set on birthing a third-generation leapling. But her son was uncooperative: he was born at 9:20 p.m. on February 28.

Maybe the incubating Kesler got tipped off to the fact that Leap Day babies may not enjoy themselves as much as you’d think. Facebook birthday reminders? Forget it. Online applications asking for birthdays sometimes don’t recognize the date. Some parents, mindful of the barrage of extremely tired humor leaplings endure about not having a birthday or aging only 25 percent as much as the rest of the population, avoid the 29 like the plague, begging doctors to schedule C-sections or inductions for either February 28 or March 1. Owing to odds, parental interference, or both, only about 200,000 Americans have a Leap birthday.

Ultimately, some parents might target shared Leap Day births in much the same way they angle for unique names: biology dictates that we consider all of our babies special, and anomalous birthdays help broadcast that message to the rest of the world. If only Hallmark would pay closer attention.