Choki Wangmo

Wangmo, 29, was anticipating a new life in her family but not sooner or with a surprise. Her son arrived a month early and is a leaper.

The mother of two from Dagana said that the baby was due at the end of this month but had cesarean delivery on February 29 at the national referral hospital in Thimphu. At first, the family was worried about the premature birth but Wangmo said she was relieved to see the baby healthy. At birth, her son weighed about three kilogrammes.

Although the day did not change anything for some of the family’s relatives, Wangmo and her husband said baby’s birth was unique. “This is a planned birth, but we were not prepared for the unexpected birth date. It makes the day more special.”

The baby, adorably called as Nuchu will celebrate his birthday once every four years.

Wangmo is worried that her son might feel like an outsider among his friend about his birth date when he grows up. “He might ask for birthday celebration every year and not every four years.” But the family is planning to celebrate the newborn’s birthday on March 1.  “It would help him relate with other children,” Wangmo said gushing.

The leap day recorded half a dozen leaplings at the national hospital, of which five were boys.

The chance of a baby being born on leap day is slim. It is only about one in 1,461 days because February 29 only comes around once in four years. And if a baby is born during a leap year, the chance of their birthday falling on the leap day is one in 366.

When Wangmo’s son celebrates his 5th birthday, he will be 20 years old.

However, unlike Wangmo, other mothers who gave birth on the day said that except for baby’s arrival, they were not excited about the day. The mothers, mostly villagers, were aware about the leap year, but don’t consider the year any special like an auspicious day or year in the Bhutanese calendar.

In 2016, 10 babies were born on the leap day at the referral hospital.

Meanwhile, 20-year old Yeshey Tobgyal celebrated his fifth birthday on February 29. He said that his father explained to him why his birthday came only once every four years. Since then, he considered his birthday a rarity and celebrated it with extra grandeur. “In these years, I didn’t meet a single leaper. My friends would be excited after knowing my birthday,” he said adding that this birthday, his friends teased him to start school.

As his birthday is celebrated every four years, his family and friends joined the celebration with excitement. “I celebrate four years’ birthdays in a year. I wish the special day lasts a bit longer.”

However, he said he felt lucky to be a leaper as he clearly remembered and cherished the gifts and people who celebrated his birth.

About 360,000 births were recorded on February 29 this year across the world. It is reported that there were only five million leapings in the world.