Mom: Second daughter born on leap day ‘God’s timing’

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News
Eliana Adaya Croff, left, with her baby sister Evelyn Joy, born Feb. 29, 2016. Both were born on a Leap Day. They are the daughters of Chad and Melissa Croff of Columbus Township.

A second consecutive leap day baby born early Monday has one Michigan family counting its unique blessings.

“It was surreal. It was very much a utopia kind of experience,” said Melissa Croff of Columbus Township in St. Clair County. “That was definitely God’s timing, not our timing.”

Leap day baby Evelyn Joy Croff was born to parents Melissa and Chad, according to Henry Ford Macomb Hospital officials. The littlest Croff, weighing in at 6 pounds, 9 ounces, arrived four years after her sister — almost down to the minute.

Evelyn was delivered naturally at 3:06 a.m. Monday, while big sister Eliana Adaya was born at 3:33 a.m. on the previous leap day, Feb. 29, 2012, at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.

“I don’t think she realizes it’s pretty special that her baby sister was born on her birthday,” Melissa Croff said Tuesday. “She probably thinks it’s normal right now.”

Croff said she and her husband did not expect or plan for the double leap day births. Baby Evelyn was delivered 10 days past her Feb. 19 due date.

As the baby’s mid-February due date came and went, Croff joked on social media about the leap day birthday possibility, she said.

“I made a comment that either she’d come during a snow storm or she’ll pick on her sister and try to take her birthday,” Croff said. “And that’s what she did.”

Labor started during an 11 a.m. Sunday church service at The River in Fort Gratiot, she said.

“We actually had just settled in to start worship service and I was really getting worried about being induced because I didn’t want that to happen,” Croff said. “So I just prayed about it and contractions started. I was overjoyed.”

In photographs released by the hospital after Evelyn’s birth, big sister Eliana, her face surrounded by blond curls, proudly holds her baby sister while wearing a “Big Sis” shirt, complete with a festive “Birthday Girl” pin.

The festive mood enveloped the family’s hospital room as word of the leap day sisters spread, Croff said.

“It was very celebratory,” she said. “It’s kind of not real still that both our daughters were born on the same day. We’re just really excited and happy to have our babies.”

Evelyn’s birth followed an earlier miscarriage and a scare just five weeks into the pregnancy, said Croff, who was injured while helping a child at a YMCA therapeutic horse riding camp.

“We lost a baby right before Evelyn so we definitely consider her a blessing,” she said. “And then I almost lost Evelyn at five weeks so we’re still just trying to wrap our heads around that we have another girl, let alone that they were born on the exact same day, four years apart, at almost the exact same time.”

A nurse midwife who assisted in Evelyn’s delivery acknowledged the rarity in a statement released by hospital officials.

“It’s quite the miracle,” nurse Maureen Heinz said. “It’s not something they tried or planned to do, and she wasn’t induced. It was all by chance.”

Heinz added she had never before delivered a baby on the same birth date as an older sibling, let alone on the rare leap day.

As the Croffs settle into life as a family of four, Eliana has enthusiastically embraced big sisterhood, her mother said.

“She’s been more than excited; she thinks it’s her baby,” Croff said. “She is really taking on her big sister role.”

Baby Evelyn, meanwhile, is perfect, according to the proud mom.

“She’s doing great,” Croff said. “She’s perfectly healthy.”

In previous years, Eliana’s birthday typically was celebrated on Saturdays “right around where her day would be,” Croff said. In the years to come, the leap day sisters will be free to pick which day to celebrate.

“I was going to let them pick whatever day they wanted to do, whether it was Feb. 28 or March 1,” Croff said. “And I mean if they want March 15, I’m OK with that, too.”

But the family will go all out every four years, Croff said.

“On Feb. 29, we’re going to do a big party for both the girls.”

It is unclear what odds the Croff family beat with their consecutive leap day deliveries. But the Guinness Book of World Records lists U.S. residents Carolyn and Ralph Cummins as parents to the most siblings born on one day: children Catherine, Carol, Charles, Claudia and Cecilia were all born on Feb. 20 from 1952 through 1966, a feat with one-in-17,797,577,730 odds, according to Guinness.

HFournier@detroitnews.com

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@HollyPFournier