This past year many people realized that nothing is more important than family. At the same time, our definition of family is expanding — chosen families are becoming more popular, some folks are coparenting, single parents and same-sex parents are gaining more rights, and families featuring three or more adults raising children are stepping out of the shadows.
Dr. Ian Jenkins (top left) first met his partner Alan (center) in medical school, and at first the two kept things professional despite their attraction. Once their rotation ended, though, Alan asked Ian to hang out.
“It was a little bit of a situation, it wasn’t clear. Is this a date? Are we hanging out? What’s the situation? So I kind of ended up making it a date,” Jenkins says with a laugh.
That first hangout-turned-date happened to be on Valentine’s Day, and after Jenkins cooked Alan homemade pizza, the two were in love. It wasn’t until later they would realize that within that love, they had space for another partner. This was the start of another journey.
In the new book Three Dads and a Baby: Adventures in Modern Parenting (in bookstores now from Cleis Press), Jenkins writes about his life with his two partners and the children that the three of them are raising together. Piper, age 3, and Parker, almost 2, are believed to be the first children in the U.S. to have three polyamorous parents listed on their birth certificates.
Previously, all of Jenkins’s relationships had been monogamous, but he wondered if that was just because he didn’t know being polyamorous, or having multiple partners, was possible. “My first boyfriend and I dated for six years. We were each other’s first boyfriends and we spent six monogamous years together,” he says. “I didn’t know that this really was an option when I was a kid. That six-year-long relationship ended because he needed to date other people. He had never kissed anyone but me.”
Jenkins eventually broke up with him, assuming monogamy was the only option. Now he knows differently. “You don’t necessarily have to give up a wonderful thing to have another wonderful thing,” he explains.
When, after a little over a decade together, Ian and Alan decided to add a third person to their relationship, they found dating apps the best option. That’s where Ian and Alan met their second partner, Jeremy. “It just goes to show you that online is kind of how people are meeting these days,” Jenkins says, “and it can be a wonderful place to start a beautiful new relationship.”
That was eight years ago. Once Jeremy became a long-term member of the now-throuple, the three started discussing adding kids to the family. Ian and Alan had always talked about eventually having children, but when Jeremy joined them, the conversations started getting serious.
“Every one of us brings something different to the equation,” Jenkins says of the decision. “And without the three of us, we wouldn’t have the kids.”
The three knew a pair of women who had two leftover embryos from their own IVF journey and were looking for someone they trusted to donate them to. The women knew the men were looking to expand their family, so they went to Jeremy and told him they’d be willing to donate their embryos to the throuple and create an extended family.
“We didn’t just jump right into it immediately,” Jenkins says. “But we started having conversations like, ‘Do we want to do this? That seems like a good option for us.’ And we had long conversations about, ‘What are our values? How do we want to raise these children? Are we concerned that they’re going to be picked on because they’ve got not just two gay dads but three? And is this the right thing for us and for them?’”
Once they were sure they knew the answers, they went back to the women and said yes. And that, Jenkins says, was the best decision they ever made.
“Well, the dad thing’s really easy,” he says. “I was actually really worried before doing this; that I wouldn’t love the kids right away. You know, I’ve never been a baby person…. But I’m going to tell you when you actually have a kid, the first thing is like, if anyone had come after that baby, I would’ve fought 10 bears.”
Right away, he says, he was willing to give up anything to keep his baby safe. It’s the little moments that make fatherhood so valuable, he says: “When you’re doing baby talk with an infant, and they’re smiling at you and talking back. Or now that the kids are older, it’s when they’re cuddling and you get the weight of an affectionate kid on you and they say sweet things to you,” those are what end up being the big moments.
“She came up to me one time,” he says of Piper. “It was out of the blue and [she] was like, ‘Papa, I just wanted to tell you that I love you so much,’ And I was like, Oh, my God. It’s OK if I get cancer tomorrow, it’ll be fine, because I have this experience with my kid.”
Now Jenkins is living his dream, and he wants others to know they can too. He says the joy of being in a throuple extends beyond the experience with parenthood. “Sometimes people want this for themselves, but it makes them uncomfortable to imagine that their partner might see someone else,” he says. “You really have to let go of some of that jealousy and think about what’s best for your partner and be able to find joy in their joy and celebrate the great things that happened for them too.”
Once you do that, anything is possible. “Learning to support someone and their happiness is a great feeling for me regardless,” Jenkins says. “So if people think about that and have those discussions as their relationships are getting started, it sort of opens up a whole new possibility for them.”
And as this throuple and their children show, it’s a beautiful possibility indeed.
This story is part of Out's 2021 Pride Issue, which is on newsstands on now! To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe — or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.