Leap Day baby: Child born to Crystal Lake family arrives early Thursday to be crowned a ‘leapling’

Meithan Davalos came into the world Thursday, making him 1 of an estimated 5 million ‘leaplings’ worldwide

Richard Davalos and Veronica Najera of Crystal Lake with their son, Meithan, Feb. 29, 2024. Meithan is a leapling.

Before Veronica Najera of Crystal Lake found out her baby likely was going to show up early, she said she was hoping he wouldn’t be a “leapling,” someone born Feb. 29.

But her son, Meithan Davalos, had other plans, arriving at 12:54 p.m. Thursday – Leap Day – at Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital, weighing 5 pounds, 8 ounces and measuring 19 inches.

Leaplings number about 5 million worldwide out of 8 billion people, according to the Associated Press. Leap Day helps keep the calendar in sync, since a year on earth technically is 365.242 days, according to the AP. However, not all four years are leap years, as 2100, 2200, 2300 and 2500 will not be leap years, although 2400 will be, according to the AP.

“Without the leap years, after a few hundred years we will have summer in November,” said Younas Khan, a physics instructor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, according to the AP. “Christmas will be in summer. There will be no snow. There will be no feeling of Christmas.”

However, for those born on Feb. 29, they still might have bureaucratic hurdles to face with a birthday that comes only once every four years.

“Some governments and others requiring forms to be filled out and birthdays to be stated stepped in to declare what date was used by leaplings for such things as drivers’ licenses, whether Feb. 28 or March 1,” the AP reported earlier this week. “Technology has made it far easier for leap babies to jot down their Feb. 29 milestones, though there can be glitches in terms of health systems, insurance policies and with other businesses and organization that don’t have that date built in.”

Veronica Najera of Crystal Lake holds her son, Meithan, Feb. 29, 2024. Meithan is a leapling.

Meithan has three older siblings – Milani, Messiah and Malehki – but none is a leapling. However, his parents noted there is another leapling in the family, Meithan’s great uncle.

Najera pieced together earlier this week that she would be having a leapling. The thought had crossed her mind earlier, and she recalled Thursday thinking she really hoped he wasn’t born on the 29th. But on Tuesday, her doctors informed her that Meithan would be entering the world Thursday. Najera said her son’s due date was March 19.

But Meithan wasn’t just early in arriving to the world – he was quick. His father, Richard Davalos, said he had stepped out of the delivery room while the doctors gave his wife an epidural. When Davalos returned a short time later, Meithan already was born.

The parents plan to celebrate Meithan’s birthday Feb. 28, “unless it’s Leap Day; then we’ll celebrate his actual” birthday, Najera said.

The baby’s aunt Jessica Davalos predicted Meithan will be “popular in school because of his birthday.”

Leap Day, besides keeping us from having Christmas in July, also comes with folklore. Legend has it Leap Day was a day for women to propose to men, but it also “reinforced gender roles,” according to AP. In 1904, syndicated columnist Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer, aka Dorothy Dix, summed up the tradition this way: “Of course people will say ... that a woman’s leap year prerogative, like most of her liberties, is merely a glittering mockery.”

The pre-Sadie Hawkins tradition, however serious or tongue-in-cheek, could have empowered women but merely perpetuated stereotypes. The proposals were to happen via postcard, but many such cards turned the tables and poked fun at women instead.

Advertising perpetuated the leap year marriage game. A 1916 ad by the American Industrial Bank and Trust Co. read: “This being Leap Year day, we suggest to every girl that she propose to her father to open a savings account in her name in our own bank,” the Associated Press reported.

Najera said Meithan’s siblings are “excited that he’s here.”

“We’re just grateful to have a healthy baby boy,” Davalos said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.