Leap of faith Weehawken woman, born on Feb. 29, delivers baby girl on same date

When Michelle Birnbaum and her husband, Jaeson, learned last July that Michelle was pregnant with the couple’s first child, they never stopped to do the math.

“We were just excited to find out that I was pregnant,” said Michelle Birnbaum, who has called Weehawken home for the last three years. “I didn’t even think about a due date. I didn’t even know how they figure that out.”

Sure, they figured that their baby would be born in February, which was great news to the couple, considering that both Michelle and Jaeson have birthdays in the month.

But when Michelle received her actual due date of Feb. 29, that’s when the astronomical improbabilities started to sink in – like 4.5 billion to one.

You see, Michelle Birnbaum was born on Feb. 29, 1980, giving her a rare distinction of being a Leap Year baby.

But now, Birnbaum’s doctors gave her a due date of Feb. 29, 2008, meaning mother and child were going share the distinction of sharing the same birthday on Leap Year Day.

“When the doctor said to us that it would be the end of February, I started thinking,” Michelle Birnbaum said. “Could it be possible?”

A different kind of birthday

Birnbaum said celebrating birthdays as a child growing up in Pittsburgh was a little different.

“My parents always made me feel special,” Birnbaum said. “We usually celebrated my birthday on Feb. 28, even though it wasn’t technically my birthday. Sometimes, my mother gave me presents on both Feb. 28 and March 1, so I celebrated for two days. When I was little at school, I might have felt a little upset, because I didn’t get the cake and my friends didn’t sing ‘Happy Birthday’ like they did with the others. It was always an alternate day.”

But when Michelle Birnbaum realized that she had the possibility of sharing her Leap Year Day birthday with her daughter, there was instant shock.

“It was amazing,” Birnbaum said. “Plus, the numbers are similar. My birthday is 2/29/80 and the baby’s would be 2/29/08.”

“I was just happy that they were going to share the same birthday,” Jaeson Birnbaum said. “I never thought of the mathematical probability. It didn’t seem like it was possible, like it was too amazing for words.”

When the date got closer, Michelle Birnbaum, an attorney who works as a law guardian, continued to work for about a week prior to the birth date. However, she started to worry when she started having contractions.

“It was getting really hard on me,” Michelle Birnbaum explained. “I really thought that she was coming sooner. I knew that we were coming close and I knew I couldn’t control it.”

Michelle stayed home for a week, kept her feet up, did what she had to do.

“We came that close,” Michelle Birnbaum said. “I wondered if she [the baby] was going to make it to the date.”

One in four billion

On Thursday night, Jaeson Birnbaum, a native of Saddle River who is also an attorney, practicing finance law in Manhattan, was making preparations for the next day. No matter what, doctors were going to induce labor the next morning.

“But around 11:30, I called for Jaeson because my water broke,” Michelle Birnbaum said. “It was time to go to the hospital.”

About 12 hours later, at Englewood Hospital in Bergen County, Rose Madelyn Birnbaum was born, weighing in at a little more than seven pounds.

“We thought about inducing so she could have the same birthday as me,” Michelle Birnbaum said. “But she ended up coming out on her own.”

The baby was named after Jaeson’s late grandmother.

“It’s really wonderful that Michelle decided to name the baby after my grandmother,” Jaeson said.

Both mother and baby are doing fine, back in their Weehawken home. They’ve become somewhat of media darlings, with their story being featured on several New York television news shows and the New York Post.

“I guess someone at the hospital must have told the story and I’ve been getting so many phone calls from reporters wanting to talk about it,” Michelle Birnbaum said. “It’s been fun getting all the attention. I thought that only our family was excited about Rose being born. Apparently, the whole world is excited.”

Having one person born on Feb. 29 is very rare. The United States Census says that there are approximately 200,000 citizens with the Leap Year Day as a birthday, making the probability of being born on a Leap Year Day is approximately one-in-1,500 in the United States.

However, being a Leap Year Day child and giving birth on a Leap Year Day? Well, try in the 4.5 billion-to-one range.

According to Google, it’s happened once before to a family in Ireland. Peter Anthony Keogh was born on Feb. 29, 1940 and his son, Peter Eric Keogh arrived on Feb. 29, 1964. So the Birnbaums are in pretty rare company.

“I can’t believe the statistic,” Michelle Birnbaum said. “I guess Rose and I will always have a special connection. She arrived on her own and everything went well. It’s great that it just happened that way. Rose will have a nice scrapbook someday of memories.”

Maybe mother and daughter can share the memories, when Rose officially turns four years old and her mother enjoys her 11th birthday.

Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or jhague@hudsonreporter.com


© 2000, Newspaper Media Group