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Leap day babies relish rare birthday

But faced with unique problems

- Associated Press - Monday, February 27, 2012

NEW YORK — Peter Brouwer turns 56 on Wednesday. But if you count the times he's celebrated his true birth date, he's only turning 14.

Mr. Brouwer is a leap day baby. And like many people born Feb. 29, he relishes the uniqueness of his birthday. He even thinks there's an advantage to marking your real birthday just once every four years.

"We don't have that psychological drama of being a year older every year," said Mr. Brouwer, who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, and is the co-founder of the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies.

In off years, Mr. Brouwer says, most leap day babies - perhaps 80 percent - celebrate their birthdays in February "because they're born in February. We call them strict Februarians."

But Jennifer Whisnant of Greensboro, N.C., whose daughter, Ava, was born in 2008, says they "celebrate on the closest Saturday for a party, or on March 1, which is technically when she would have been born had it not been leap year."

Birth certificates and most government agencies such as Social Security use Feb. 29 for those born on leap day, but leaplings occasionally encounter bureaucratic difficulties using their true birth dates. Some computerized drop-down menus don't include Feb. 29.

"My life insurance policy is for March 1 because their computer doesn't support leap day," Mr. Brouwer said.

On Facebook, Anne McCarthy's friends get a note Feb. 28 that her birthday is the next day. Then on March 1, "there would be nothing. So, unless it was a leap year, friends would not see birthday reminders for the actual day," said Ms. McCarthy, of Boston, turning 24 on Wednesday (in "leap time," 6).

There are no reliable numbers on exactly how many babies are born on leap day, but statistically, the odds of being born then are the same as any other day.

"The law of averages means your chance of being born on Feb. 29 are one out of 1,461," Mr. Brouwer said, referring to the number of days in the four-year calendar cycle. "We figure in the U.S. there's about 200,000 of us, and in the world about 5 million."

There's also no good way of definitively determining whether mothers with scheduled cesarean section or induced births avoid or embrace leap day.

Fewer babies are born on weekends in the U.S. than on other days, according to research by the National Center for Health Statistics, and since leap day fell on a Sunday in 2004 and a Friday in 2008, birth numbers from those years don't tell the whole story.

What will happen this year is anybody's guess. At Inova Health System in Virginia, where more than 20,000 babies were born last year in four hospitals, "Women are running from the date. That's what we've found," said spokesman Tony Raker.

But at Florida Hospital in Orlando, "People would rather have the baby on leap day. We have a slight increase in the number of scheduled C-sections on that day since it is a special day," said hospital spokeswoman Sara Channing.

One of those scheduled to give birth Wednesday at Florida Hospital is Tammy Gerencser, who didn't hesitate when her doctor proposed scheduling her C-section Feb. 29.

"I got this sheet of paper that said, 'You're going in Feb. 29,' " Ms. Gerencser said. She said while a few people told her, " 'Oh no, you need to change that date,' other people are so excited."

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