While David is at boarding school, his March birthday arrives. He is summoned to the school parlor. He happily anticipates a hamper of treats from Peggotty and hurries off to receive them.
What makes this birthday memorable, however, is not anything happy. He learns that his mother has died and that his infant brother is also expected to die, which he does. David is in a state of shock, and he sincerely mourns his mother's death, remembering her as the young, happy woman she was when he was small.
At home from Salem House, he learns that his beloved Peggotty has been given a month's notice, meaning she will be laid off in a month's time. Further, he is neglected by the Murdstones, and he realizes the Mr. Murdstone hates him more than ever. A mother's death is not the kind of birthday surprise a child hopes to have.