March 2, 2020

VUMC welcomes seven Leap Day babies

Neonatal nurse practitioner Wendy Araya, a Feb. 29 baby herself, offers advice to the latest leaplings

Wendy Araya, a 28-year NICU nurse, who has leap year bday, with Ronan Riley a new leap year baby at Vanderbilt Hospital.

Children’s Hospital neonatal nurse practitioner Wendy Araya, a Leap Day baby herself, greets Ronan Riley, one of seven Leap Day babies born at VUMC Feb. 29, 2020. Photo by Susan Urmy

Wendy Araya, a neonatal nurse practitioner at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, is 56 years old and has worked at the hospital for going on 28 years — yet she celebrated only her 14th birthday last Saturday, Feb. 29.

As a “leapling,” as those born on Leap Day are known, Araya says she has always had fun with her unusual birthday.

“The exciting part is the novelty of explaining it to people. They get this puzzled look on their faces,” she says.

Riley Marie Donald, daughter of Rashaun and Jonathan Donald, seems happy to be here. Photo by Erin O. Smith

When she arrived at work at Children’s Hospital Monday morning, March 2, Araya made a point to seek out some of her latest birthday cohorts — the babies born last Saturday.

VUMC saw the birth of seven Leap Day babies, each of whom received a special onesie with “Leap Day baby” and a picture of a frog on the front.

Araya had a special Leap Day shirt herself with the slogan “Leap Day babies rock!”

Araya and her new leapling-mates are a relatively rare group, with only 187,000 or so people in the entire country who have a Feb. 29 birthday.

“The most common question I am asked is ‘When do you celebrate your birthday?’” Araya says.

The answer, for the record, is she keeps it on the last day in February, so on non-leap years, she celebrates on Feb. 28. She knows other leaplings who choose March 1, reasoning that they were born on the day after Feb. 28.

She says either one works — the key is to have fun.

“We have always been a family who loves to celebrate birthdays. We have had fun with my date. I love to talk about it. It really boggles minds, especially children. They get really interested and have all kinds of questions,” she says.

Leap Day baby Rowan Zenovi Williams wonders who that handsome guy is in the reflection. Photo by Erin O. Smith

Araya advises the parents of the latest leaplings to follow her example and make sure to always have a celebration.

“It is a unique birthday and should be always promoted as such,” she says. “I have had fun with it my whole life. And really make it special on the year that the 29th actually does happen.”