Birthdays are pretty straightforward for most of us — they come around once a year. But what is it like for leap-year babies born on February 29 whose “birthdays” come around once every four years?

In this story, Opeyemi (28), a leap-year baby, shares how she realised she was different, the external curiosity that comes with being born on a leap year, and why she has two birth dates.

As told to Boluwatife

Image: Opeyemi

I was in JSS 1 when my parents threw me my first-ever birthday party. 

The year was 2008, and it was the first time I actually realised my birthday wasn’t like everyone else’s. It was such a huge event that even my mum’s friends came. Later on, I asked my mum why that birthday was different. She said, “Because there’s a February 29 this year.”

I was born on February 29, 1996. In leap year numbers, I’m technically “six” years old now, but don’t you dare tell me I’m six.

I really disliked the age thing growing up. My friends and younger cousins never passed up an opportunity to remind me I was “just two years old.” I remember one time, during an argument with some cousins, I went the “I’m not your age mate” route,  and they quickly did the calculation for me in leap years. It was an argument-ending comeback. It was beyond annoying.

But it never made sense to me. My development doesn’t happen once every four years, but most people will never let go of the age thing. I always get questions like: How do you calculate your age? How do you celebrate your birthday? How old are you really… like ideally? — What does “ideally” mean?

Well, I calculate my age every year like a normal person, but I celebrate it on February 28 so I technically still have a birthday every year. 

It also means I have two official birthdays. I randomly used both February 28 and 29 interchangeably on forms and online applications for a while because the latter was easier and straight to the point. But when I had BVN issues because of that— the officer had put 29 because my birth certificate said so, but then some of my other documents had a different date — I had to swear a declaration of age in a court affidavit to have February 28 as my official birth date. So, I have a birth certificate and affidavit with different birth dates.

There are perks to being a leap-year baby, though. My parents started this tradition of throwing me big parties every leap year, and I took it to adulthood. As a kid, I always got extra attention and gifts on leap years, and now, I get to celebrate my birthday twice on leap years, too. 

The first time I had a leap year birthday in the university was quite funny. It was in 2016, and everyone wished me a happy birthday on the 28th. The following day, some of my friends who knew I was born on the 29th began to wish me a happy birthday, too.

Everyone in the hostel was surprised, and the news about me being born on a leap year spread like wildfire. People kept coming to ask me how it felt to be born on a leap year. I wanted to ask, “How does it feel to be born on your own birthday?”

I get why people find it so interesting, though. I’ve only ever met three other leap-year babies. I met the first one in secondary school. He preferred to associate with March 1 as his birthday rather than claim February. The other two are my twin cousins, but they’re far younger, so we never celebrated our birthdays together.

My leap year birthdays are definitely different. I guess knowing that it only comes every few years makes it extra special. And even though I’m not one to throw parties like my parents, I like to go all out with friends when possible. This year, I plan to take pictures and visit orphanages. It’s like a full-circle birthday for me, too. I was born on a Thursday, and my birthday this year falls on a Thursday.

With all the pros and cons, I love being a leap-year baby. It’s a unique part of me that’s solely mine. I think my mum loves the fact that I’m a leap-year baby even more than me. 

She’s always excited to tell everyone who cares to listen all about it. When she found out about the affidavit, she was furious. It took a whole lot of explaining for her to accept I wasn’t changing my birthday; I just wanted to make my life easier.

But if I had the opportunity to choose, I’d still choose February 29. I’ll never have a golden birthday — the one where you get to celebrate turning 29 on the 29th — but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I already know what day my next leap year birthday will fall on, and the one after that. It’s always something to look forward to.

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