Most parents don’t have a say in whether their children will be born on a leap day.
But Pat and Kim Hiebert of Wichita do. They are checking into a Wichita hospital for a C-section on Monday for the birth of their daughter.
And that means that they’ve had to wonder what their little girl – their fourth child – will think about having a birthday on Feb. 29, which usually comes around just once every four years.
If other leap-day babies we talked to are any indication, she’s in for – mostly – a blast. Just be warned these babies talk kind of differently – like they came out of “Alice in Wonderland” or something.
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“My first birthday I was only 4, but that was probably the biggest party we ever had,” says Brooke McMahon, a buyer at Golf Warehouse, of her leap-day birthday. In an extra-rare case of serendipity, she shares it with her grandmother. “This year is pretty big because my grandma’s turning 21, so we’re having a lot of fun with that.
“Everyone thinks it’s funny how old I am; I’m only 6. I always get that, ‘Brooke can’t go because she’s only 6’ quite a bit around my birthday. Whoever goes first is the youngest in the room, and it’s always me, even if I’m not.”
Understand now? As for her grandmother – Shirley Goodnight, who lives on a ranch south of Dodge City and has been accused of being 84 – Grandma says, “I’m going to be 21. I can go get a cocktail or something.”
Usually it’s a weeklong celebration because no one knows when to celebrate it.
Kim Hiebert, a nurse who is going to have the C-section on Monday, was at first skeptical about the idea that she and her husband would choose Feb. 29 as their daughter’s birthday. As an experienced mother, Kim knows that children want to know when their birthday is, and what would they tell her? Most states, she found, transfer it to March 1 because that’s the day after Feb. 28 most years.
For leap-day babies of various ages, Feb. 29 has actually turned out to be an extender of their birthday beyond one mere day.
Goodnight celebrates on Feb. 28 most years, she says, while her husband, Olis, estimates that the celebration lasts more like “three or four days. She gets more cards and calls than anybody you ever heard of.”
“People seem to remember I have a birthday,” Shirley says.
And her granddaughter adds: “It’s been a ton of fun. … Usually it’s a weeklong celebration because no one knows when to celebrate it, so I can’t complain. I usually celebrate on the 28th, but … my mom wishes me happy birthday on the 28th and my dad on March 1. … My parents always argue about it.”
In a phenomenon that obviously needs more study, the mom-and-dad disagreement is repeated for Jodi Underwood, owner of Salon Chemistry. She turns 44 – er, 11 – this leap year.
“To this day I still get a phone call from my mom on the 28th, and my dad always calls me on the first. They’ve never agreed on that,” Underwood said. Hieberts, be prepared.
Underwood can think of only one big hitch in her Feb. 29 birthday. The first time her driver’s license was set to expire, the expiration date didn’t show up, because it was a non-leap year, so she heard from the Department of Motor Vehicles. The expiration date was then moved to March 1.
The Hieberts’ new daughter also may find, eventually, that she’s a subject of some classroom curiosity.
“When I was younger, in classes my teachers would make a lesson out of my birthday,” McMahon said. “What it is and what it means, so it was kind of embarrassing.”
But now that she’s 6, McMahon is doing the teaching.
“To this day I still have a lot of friends who don’t understand it,” she says, “so it’s kind of fun to explain.”
Kim Hiebert didn’t understand it when her husband first floated the idea of a leap-day delivery for their baby. Here were his reasons:
“As a guy I said, one, it’s easy to remember, and two, it’s unique … because this is my fourth now,” Pat Hiebert said. “As a guy I think it’s cool.” Bolstering his case: “The doctor says, ‘I could do that. I don’t think I ever delivered a leap-day baby before.’”
As a guy I said, one, it’s easy to remember, and two, it’s unique.
Pat Hiebert, on choosing leap day for his daughter’s birth
“They were so ridiculously excited about it,” Kim Hiebert says of the men.
When Brooke McMahon’s mother, Gayle, was pregnant with her 24 years ago, “it was really interesting,” Gayle said, “because I was due Feb. 21, and I went eight days late, and I wasn’t hoping I’d have her on the 29th, because that was going past my due date. But as I got closer, I thought that would be really neat,” especially since her mother was born the same day.
Kim Hiebert similarly warmed up to the idea of having a leap-day daughter.
“I’m excited now. I mean it’s a unique birthday. … I think it’ll be unique, and hopefully she’ll like it,” she said. “I hope so.”
Brooke McMahon likes hers so much that this year she is celebrating her sixth birthday with her 21-year-old grandma, then going to Vegas to celebrate her 24th year.
Good luck, Hieberts.