A mum of two whose contractions started at her special 30th lunch 23 years ago only for her baby girl to be born less than an hour later says her daughter has stolen her birthday every year since.
Marianna Palumbo, 53, was celebrating with a slap-up lunch on March 31, 1998, when Graziella, now 23, decided to make her dramatic entrance – barely giving her mum time to reach the hospital after her contractions started and appearing after an express 45-minute labour.
Speaking as Loose Women panellist Stacey Solomon announced her baby daughter’s arrival on her 32nd birthday earlier this month, IT security expert Marianna, of Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, said: “Congratulations to her – but she will lose her birthday!”
She added: “I haven’t had a birthday in 23 years.
“I used to love my birthday. If my birthday was on a Sunday, the celebrations would start on the Thursday.
“But, from the moment Graziella was born during my birthday lunch, it’s never been the same!”
Since stealing the limelight by gate-crashing her 1998 bash, Graziella, 23, now a fashion buyer, has upstaged her every year since, according to divorcee Marrianna, who is also mum to banking consultant Gaetano, 29.
“Graziella wasn’t due for another two or three days,” she said.
“I wasn’t going to stop celebrating my birthday because I was pregnant, so I excitedly planned to meet my friends and have some lunch.”
She added: “But when we got to the restaurant, I really started to feel unwell. I had awful pains and quickly realised my contractions had started.
“I was rushed to the hospital. I didn’t get my cake, lunch or anything. That was my last real birthday celebration and she stole that too!”
Clearly keen to start celebrating with her mum, Graziella appeared, weighing 7lb, in hospital after a 45-minute labour.
“If I had taken longer getting to the hospital she would have been born in the restaurant,” laughed Marianna.
“She was so beautiful I was over the moon, but also it really was the end of my birthdays.”
Focussing the annual celebrations on her daughter instead, she said their joint birthday became all about Graziella.
“A few months before our shared birthday we’d start planning for Graziella’s birthday and organising everything,” she said.
“I didn’t have the time to think about what I wanted.
“When you have kids, you don’t think about yourself. It’s about making your children happy and, of course, we always threw Graziella a party.”
She added: “I guess she’s just like me in a lot of ways.
“Before I had her, I’d spend Thursday to Sunday celebrating my own birthday.
“Now we do the same for Graziella.”
She added: “I organise all her celebrations and, by the time she’s booked all hers in, there’s no time for my own.
“In my mind it’s Graziella’s big day, no longer mine.”
Part of a big Italian family that love boisterous get togethers to celebrate special days, Marianna has always played a pivotal role at every party – although she has not been the star attraction.
She laughed: “We always say it’s a joint party, but it isn’t.
“People will come in and say, ‘Happy birthday – where’s Graziella?’ She’s the real star of the show.”
Despite enjoying making a fuss of her daughter, Marianna admits that she misses being indulged when she clocks up another year.
“As mums, we long for that time just to focus on ourselves,” she explained.
“You spend every day looking after your kids and I guess your birthday becomes a day to be spoilt, enjoy a nice meal and have fun yourself.
“I don’t really have that anymore. Of course, Graziella and Gaetano get me presents and so do my family, but I get a card and pressie and then the celebration is over and done.”
She added: “The party, the big day – as it should be because I really do want her to have a fabulous day – is all about my lovely princess.”
With a one in 365 chance of sharing a birthday with your child, Marianna now wonders how Graziella will feel if her own children are born on the same day.
“I do wonder how she would feel if she had a child on her birthday,” she said.
She added: “I don’t think she’d like it, but it would be interesting to find out. I don’t even know what the chances are of that. It would be pretty incredible if we all shared a birthday.”
Strangely, Graziella feels her mum is always at the centre of their joint celebrations.
She said: “I felt so bad when Mum said she hadn’t had a birthday for 23 years.”
She added: “She’s never said anything before to me and she’s always planning such big birthday parties and massive family get togethers.
“I think Mum’s doing it for herself as well as for me. She loves being the hostess – for my 21st birthday we had 250 people in the garden, it was crazy.
“We both celebrate our birthdays for a whole month.”
She added: “I think if our birthdays weren’t on the same day, I wouldn’t have such big celebrations.
“If anyone feels a bit left out it’s probably my brother, Gaetano. But we’re throwing him a big Octoberfest 30th next year.
“Mum and I are currently putting all our planning into that. We’re even getting an inflatable pub for him.
“Honestly, I don’t think anything will change. We’re the kind of family that are go hard or go home, so we’ll always throw a big party.”