Three gay men are speaking about parenting in a polyamorous relationship and their historic achievement in having all three fathers’ names on their children’s birth certificates.
Ian Jenkins, a San Diego doctor, and his partner of seventeen years, Alan, opened up their relationship to Jeremy, a zookeeper, eight years ago, Jenkins told Huffington Post.
Jenkins said that Jeremy’s job — caring for “extremely fragile bird species” — put he and Alan “more in the mindset of being parents.”
That opportunity presented itself almost four years ago, when friends offered to donate embryos from their attempts to start a family through IVF. That led to the throuple’s first child, Piper, being born via surrogacy in 2017.
Jenkins said the men then faced the issue of Piper’s birth certificate, with a judge at a surrogacy hearing telling them they would “have to have a law passed or appeal” because she couldn’t set the precedent of putting all three fathers’ names on the certificate.
“I was like, ‘I just want a kid — I don’t want a legal battle,’” Jenkins said. “It was like ice water being thrown on us.”
However, Alan went “full mama bear” and “basically interrupted the proceedings and told them to swear us all in.”
“We all gave very tearful testimonies about why we needed to become parents,” Jenkins said. “You could see the emotion on the judge’s face. She looked at all the options in front of her and found a way to use existing laws to give us the first birth certificate of its kind anywhere.”
The hearing, which took place prior to Piper’s birth, mean that she was the first known child born with three fathers on her birth certificate. The throuple repeated the process a year later with their second child, Parker.
Jenkins said that their family dynamic has led the fathers to consider that “our kids might be perceived differently. We didn’t want them to become a target of teasing or bullying or online abuse.”
He attributed living in progressive California to the dads receiving “zero pushback from anyone in our professional and personal lives.”
“Our oldest now is in preschool, and the other parents and kids are like, ‘Cool! Tell us that story,’” Jenkins said.
He said that, despite what some may think, his family is no different to many others: “We’re just three tame, regular people who spend a lot of time talking about what to have for dinner. After the first few minutes of meeting us, people realize that.”
Jenkins also highlighted the “continuous conversation” required to maintain a polyamorous relationship, with parenting requiring the fathers to “engage constantly.”
“When our oldest develops the ability to have a tantrum like a reactor breaking down in Chernobyl, we all have to be on the same page and have a consistent parenting style,” he said. “What’s the best approach? How much time for a time out? What do you call it? Does the parent need help or is it adding fuel to the fire?”
By speaking out about their family, including penning upcoming book Three Dads and a Baby, Jenkins hopes to expand the view of what a family can be.
“I really worry about someone who lives somewhere that’s not as accepting as California and wants to live this kind of life and can’t move,” he said. “I’m hoping this starts the wheels turning that families come in lots of different arrangements.”