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Three dads, a baby and the legal battle to get their names added to a birth certificate

Meet Ian, Alan, and Jeremy – three dads who are a “throuple.” For those not in the know, a “throuple” means three people, in this case, three dads who are in a polyamorous commitment to each other.

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In general, most cultures focus on heterosexual couples embarking on the path to parenthood, however, this is changing. These three dads are not able to physically produce their own children. Obviously, this was a massive and complicated encounter to deal with. Particularly being a “throuple” threw even more obstacles in their pathway.

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The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.

Richard Bach

Three Dads and a Baby,” a newly released book authored by Jenkins, tells the story of these three dads’ journey. Along with two surrogates and one egg donor, the three of them traveled together while taking on challenges from both the medical and legal systems.

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After complex court decisions and great financial and emotional expense, these three dads are finally raising two toddlers in Southern California.  After sharing their trying experience, you can certainly say that families do indeed come in all shapes and sizes.

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When there were two men and no baby

Jenkins grew up in Virginia, and after coming out, he then had to endure the pain and fear of death threats and ridicule. He never considered that it would ever be possible to have an open and free relationship with another man. [1]

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I was completely isolated and didn’t know a single gay person when I was in high school. I thought I’d never be able to live an authentic life. It never occurred to me that people could even have two partners.

Jenkins

Alan and Jenkins met in Boston when they were completing their residency in medicine.

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He (Alan) was smarter than the other students. It was obvious, even though he wasn’t straining to show off his medical knowledge, like half of them were.

Jenkins

Alan and Jenkins were attracted to each other, particularly Jenkins noticing Alan’s compassion and care for his patients.  “my Golden Girl” features in his book and portrays the gentleness and care Alan gave to an elderly woman who was in poor health.  His entertaining humor and composed character just sealed the deal for Jenkins!

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They have been in a relationship since 2003. At the time, they lived in Boston, but they sought out a warmer climate and ended moving to San Diego. Alan holds a psychiatrist at a hospital, and Jenkins is an associate professor of medicine at UC San Diego.

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Turns out, the medical center that’s the farthest from Boston in the continental United States is in San Diego. So, here we are.”

Jenkins

And then there were three… Three dads and a baby

Ten years flew by, and then Jenkins proposed the idea of bringing a third man into their relationship. In 2012 they met Jeremy online, and the “throuple” was formed.[2]

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Jeremy, also in medicine, but the animal kind – works at the San Diego Zoo. To protect their privacy, both Alan and Jeremy choose not to use their last names in the media.

Three dads: Ian, Alan and Jeremy with baby Piper
Three dads: Ian, Alan and Jeremy with baby Piper Image Credit: Sweet Me Photography

The “throuple” have been together for more than eight years. They know they wanted to have children in their lives, but the myriad of challenges in their path made it seem virtually impossible.

We knew he was right, but we never took the first step. Then Jeremy entered the picture: a zookeeper and nurturer by trade. With a third voice at the table, our conversations about parenting began to change.”

Jenkins

With three of them now in the picture, their aspirations of having children became more difficult.  One major was, as Jenkins writes, “We just didn’t have the ovaries.”  

Meghan, a childhood friend of Alans, presented them with an offer of being an egg donor with the proviso that she could remain in the child’s life as an aunt figure. They arranged to pay her expenses to travel to visit them once a year instead of a “fee” for being an egg donor.

They also had an offer from another female friend to be a surrogate, and now they were ready to be dads!

Little did they know that this road would be heavy with lawyers, massive expense, and onerous administration.

They would accrue costs of around $121,000 over the following month. Getting contracts, legalities, medical procedures, and assessments to begin their family.

Gay couples don’t stumble into parenthood by accident. It’s always a deliberate act, and a complicated one.”

Jenkins

If the emotional and financial difficulties weren’t enough, the battle they had to endure to have all three dad’s names on their firstborn’s birth certificate was even more challenging!  As the men are not married, each party had to have separate legal representation to formulate the parenting contract.

Interestingly, a 2013 California law allowed a third parent to be included on a child’s birth certificate, which worked in their favor. According to the law, if it is shown to the courts that only having two parents could be disadvantageous to a child, a third parent can be added.

The judge at their pre-birth hearing ruled in their favor, allowing a precedent to be set to allow all three dads’ names on the birth certificate. 

Three dads: Ian, Alan and Jeremy with baby Piper
Three dads: Ian, Alan and Jeremy with baby Piper Image Credit: Sweet Me Photography

If one of the dad’s names was omitted from the birth certificate, this, in turn, would deny that parent any legal rights or relationship with the child. And of course, how could they make that heart-wrenching decision as to whose name would be left off?

The three dads asked for permission to speak at the hearing. Holding back the tears and emotion, these three men eloquently explained what being a dad meant to them.  Not only the emotional side but also the ability to make important decisions from medical decisions to inheritance. And of course, what would happen if their relationship with each other should change.

It worked

The fight to have all three names on the birth certificates was a difficult one, but worth the fight to protect their parental rights and the rights of their children.

Jenkins said in a recent CNN interview;

But we are hopeful that other people benefit from the experience we had, and that it’s easier, less expensive and less stressful for them. We’ve had zero negative feedback from coworkers and friends. Everyone seems to just be delighted about the arrangement and that’s because they know us”

Jenkins

We could just see in her (the judge’s) face that something had changed, that she wouldn’t feel comfortable denying one of us parenthood. And we could tell right then that she was going to find some way to make it work out for us.”

Jenkins

The ruling in 2017 that was made in their favor took place before their daughter, Piper, was born. Jenkins believed that they are the first polyamorous family in California, and possibly even the country! However, this has not yet been confirmed

The men’s California household now includes a second child — a son — and two dogs.

Three dads, two babies, and now three women

The three dads have stepped into their roles as parents and have added another child to their family, a boy named Parker, born in 2019. Parker has the same egg donor as Piper but a different surrogate.[2]

Like with any surrogacy, Parker’s birth also brought about another stream of legal contracts.

However, the victory here is that when Parker was born, there was no conflict or battle to have the three dads’ names on his birth certificate.  They didn’t even have to go to court.

As Jenkins says, this all would not have been possible without the egg donor. And Also the two surrogates who made this family unit possible.  

More often than not, Jenkins has to explain this whole biological process of their family unit of multiple fathers.

Read: Married couple give birth to first child after forming throuple

Two dads, an egg donor and a surrogate: How a freezer failure changed everything

We did an egg extraction. We got a bunch of eggs … and we fertilized them with sperm from all three dads. And from that effort, we got several embryos. One of the embryos was Piper, one of the embryos was Parker. And so the parents of Piper are Jeremy and Meghan, and Parker’s parents are Alan and Meghan.”

Jenkins

Mama Meghan” is what the children call her when they see her. At least once a year when she travels from Tennessee to visit.

The three dads are called different names by their children: Jenkins is Papa, Alan is Dada and Jeremy is Daddy.

Jenkins wrote in his book that Piper portrays a sense of pride in her unique family and that she one time told a preschool classmate  “You have two parents. I have three parents.”[1]

All lives are equal in this uncommon household

Three incomes mean more money and more people to share responsibilities. And, in this busy household that includes two Goldendoodles called Otis and Hazel.

Jenkins who grew up as a child of divorcees and had three parents in his life, says that their family is the same as any other;

Day to day in our home, everything is very ordinary,” he says. “There’s just people making dinner, going out to the hot tub with the kids, reading books, playing with toys. It’s just these three parents instead of two or one.

Jenkins

Jenkins may have been concerned about their children suffering some difficulties with their peers about their unique fact of having three dads. But, there haven’t been any concerns arising.

We’ve had zero negative feedback from coworkers and friends. Everyone seems to just be delighted about the arrangement and that’s because they know us. I think some people will look at this and say like, ‘Oh, this is exotic. It’s going to harm the child.’ But people who know us know that we have been taking care of these kids as best as we possibly can.”

Jenkins

Each of the three dads hold different roles

Like all parents who step into the role of parenthood, challenges are faced daily. So, like any other parent, we all have to do our best by remaining consistent and loving.[1][2]

Jenkins, who is 45, says,We knew that if there were three of us, the usual issue where a kid can play parents off each other becomes multiplied.” His favorite role right now is teaching Piper how to read.

Jeremy, at 37, holds the “popular” dad role, perhaps as he is the youngest?  Piper’s favorite activity is to traipse behind like his little shadow.

Alan, 43, is the reader of the stories. He has the knack of taking them on a journey of discovery with the characters in the books he reads to the children.

In closing, Jenkins says that if it were possible to have send himself a message when he was struggling as a teenager, it would this; Life gets better! And, no matter how dire the situation seems for a young gay man to find his place, the world is changing and finally more love than he can ever imagine, would surround him under one roof.

Keep Reading: Bride Has Her Wedding Gown Cut Into 17 ‘Angel Gowns’ For Babies Lost Too Soon

Sources:

  1. Three dads, a baby and the legal battle to get their names added to a birth certificate.” CNN. March 6, 2021.
  2. Gay poly throuple makes history, lists 3 dads on a birth certificate.” NY Post. Marisa Dellatto. March 1, 2021.
Jade Small
Freelance Writer
Jade is a freelance writer and content creator from South Africa with over 7 years experience writing and creating. She's also a proud single mom to a super 13 year old boy.
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