The first polyamorous family in California to put all three dads on the same birth certificate has opened up about life as a parenting ‘throuple’.
Doctor Ian Jenkins, 45, and his partners Alan Mayfield and Jeremy Allen Hodges, from San Diego, made legal history in 2017 when a judge agreed to put them all on the birth certificate of daughter Piper, now 3, paving the way for other polyamorous families to gain greater legal recognition in the US.
They now also have a 14-month-old son, Parker. The children are half-siblings born using an egg donor and a surrogate.
Ian and Alan have been together for seventeen years. And they’ve been with their partner, Jeremy, for eight.
Jeremy is known to the children as ‘daddy’, while Alan is ‘dada’ and Ian is ‘papa’.
Ian, a specialist in hospital medicine and a university professor, described their ‘unique family’ set up as ‘just three tame, regular people who spend a lot of time talking about what to have for dinner’.
Ian Jenkins (right) from San Diego is in relationship with two other men – Alan Mayfield (centre) and Jeremy Allen Hodges (right). They have 2 children, Piper, 3, and Parker, 14-months, together
Ian Jenkins, pictured with son Parker, has written a book called Three Dads and a Baby, that is released next March, on their unusual family
Now, they have released a book, written by Ian, called Three Dads and a Baby, the title of which is a play on that of the smash-hit 1987 comedy film, Three Men and a Baby, starring Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg.
The book will be published in March next year by Cleis Press and Simon and Schuster, and tells the story of their unusual family as well as offering tips, including how to develop a ‘consistent parenting style’.
It also gives advice on what to do when your child prefers daddy over dada or papa, as well as the positive sides like three incomes and three people doing night feeds.
‘We did have a slight attention to the fact that our kids might be perceived differently,’ Ian told HuffPost.
‘We didn’t want them to become a target of teasing or bullying or online abuse.’
But luckily, so far they say they have had ‘zero push back’ in their personal or professional lives.
‘Our oldest now is in preschool, and the other parents and kids are like, ‘Cool! Tell us that story’’, Ian added.
The family say that ‘continuous conversation’ is the key to a healthy, polyamorous relationship when it comes to parenting.
Ian explained: ‘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. 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?’
They are currently navigating a familiar phase – that of the ‘favorite parent’.
‘Piper has a favorite parent, and that’s Jeremy,’ Ian said. ‘There are many times it’s been harder for me to connect with her because she wants Daddy.’
He continued: ‘We’ve developed a strategy for evening the workload so Jeremy doesn’t feel worn out and I get to share in the joys of having her. We all have a different role. Right now one of the best things is teaching her reading.’
The 1987 smash-hit Three Men and a Baby starred, left to right, Steve Guttenberg, Tom Selleck and Ted Danson, as three bachelors struggling to raise a baby girl
Ian said they also wanted to raise awareness of the need for more legal rights for polyamorous families and said they were lucky to be in a ‘liberal’ state like California because some US states were ‘brutal’ towards granting legal protections, like birth certificates, to polyamorous couples.
‘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.
‘Some states are just brutal. They make every effort to impair parenting by nontraditional families and are really unhelpful. I’m hoping this starts the wheels turning that families come in lots of different arrangements.’
In July the Massachusetts city of Somerville voted to grant polyamorous people some of the same legal rights as married spouses, including the right to be on a partner’s health insurance and be allowed in hospital rooms, the New York Times reports.
The family’s story began around eight years ago.
Ian and Alan, who met in 2003, were unsure whether they wanted children, but when Jeremy, who is a zoo-keeper, joined them as a partner in 2012, they started to discuss it.
They were offered embryos by a female friend, Meghan.
‘We had the option to adopt the embryos and make the decision to raise a unique family’, said Ian.
After a different friend offered to be the surrogate for the embryos, and they paid for many lawyers, Piper was born, followed several years later by Parker.
The dads (left to right), Alan, Ian and Jeremy, are pictured here with their children Parker and Piper, and their biological mother Meghan who donated eggs which were then carried by two different surrogates
Dad Jeremy holding baby Piper when she was born through a surrogate in 2017, using friend Meghan’s donated embryo
After Piper’s birth, the fathers appealed to a local San Diego judge, who had initially refused to add them all to the certificate, claiming she was unable to set a precedent.
‘She said you’re going to have to have a law passed or appeal,” Ian recalled.
‘I was like, “I just want a kid ― I don’t want a legal battle.” It was like ice water being thrown on us.’
There have been instances of adding a third parent’s name to a birth certificate after the child is born, and Jenkins was beginning to think that’s what he and his partners would be forced to do when, as he put it, Alan went ‘full mama bear.’
Ian said: ‘He 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. 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.’
He added: ‘If you’ve ever seen a courtroom drama where the innocent person gets off at the end ― it was like that.’
Jenkins’ book, Three Dads and a Baby’, comes out in March 2021 and is available for pre-order now.