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Mother, son celebrate Leap Year birthdays
Cumming resident Jessica Jackson holds her then toddler son, Tyler. Both Jessica and Tyler have Leap Year birthdays, an odd that is about 1 in 1,500.

Although she will be turning 28 on Wednesday, Jessica Jackson has only had six birthdays in her lifetime. She’s a Leap Year baby.

So is her son, Tyler Jackson, who will be turning 4.

According to an article on the Infoplease website, the odds of being born on Leap Day are about 1 in 1,500. Fewer than 200,000 people in the United States have that birthday, the website says.

"His actual due date was Feb. 16," said Jackson, a Cumming resident.

"Everybody said he was going to come on my birthday, but I said, this kid is strong, he wants his own birthday.

"Low and behold, I went into labor right around 2 a.m. on Feb. 29, (2008) and he was born about 5:20 that evening."

Although going into labor on her 24th birthday threw off her birthday plans for that year, with Tyler now at an age where he understands how birthdays — and numbers — work, Jackson says this is the first year that things may get a little confusing.

"I’m anxious to see how I can portray it to him," Jackson said.

"How do you explain to a 4-year-old that this is (technically) his first birthday?"

Even though his sharing her unique birth date makes Tyler pretty special, Jackson says there are other reasons why she refers to him as her "miracle baby."

"When I got pregnant with him, I was a really bad meth addict. I was incarcerated for most of my pregnancy. The fact that he made it through all of that makes him my miracle," Jackson said.

"He was my rock to get over my addiction. He has really been my saving grace."

Although he is the "joy" of her life now, if it wasn’t for counselors at the Gainesville Care Center, Tyler may have become someone else’s ray of light, Jackson says.

"When I got out of jail, I had felonies on my record, no job, and I had to go to rehab. (My family) thought the best thing for me, and for the baby, was for me to give him up for adoption," Jackson said.

"(They) thought going to rehab, being a single parent and staying clean would have been a lot for me to handle at that time in my life. I knew in my heart and soul that Tyler and I were meant to be.

"Mary Nash at the care center prayed with us and helped me to believe that I could do it. I don’t know where any of us would be if that hadn’t happened.

"Tyler really was a God send. I’ll be clean and sober for five years in July."

Tonight, the Jacksons and other families will be sharing their stories during the center’s annual gala, which is being held at First Baptist Church in Gainesville.

Wednesday, they’ll head to a horse ranch in north Hall County for a joint birthday celebration.

"We’re doing a cowboy birthday, complete with special-order cowboy boots and hats. It was Tyler’s idea. I think he got it from the movie, ‘Toy Story.’ He loves (the cowboy character) Woody," Jackson said.

"A cowboy birthday isn’t exactly what I would’ve chosen for myself, but the fact that its what he wanted far outweighs anything else."

Since she enjoyed having solo celebrations for years, Jackson isn’t upset about not being the focus for the day.

"My mom has always been super good about acknowledging us both, and I can’t think of a better person to share my birthday with," Jackson said.

Even though Leap Year only rolls around once every four years, that doesn’t mean the birthday celebrations are put on hold the rest of the time.

"Growing up, I would say all week that it was my birthday. It got a little weird when trying to decide when to wear the birthday girl crown, but I acknowledged from a very early age that my birthday was more special than a burden," Jackson said.

"We always celebrated my birthday on whatever weekend was closest to the 29th, but for Tyler, I always celebrate on the 28th and the 1st. Honestly, it’s probably more for me than him. He’s so special, I wanted to celebrate him twice."

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