Dr. Ian Jenkins, his partners Alan and Jeremy, and their surrogate are the definition of a modern family. But how do three men make the jump from throuple to poly parents? Jenkins unfolds how his unconventional life came to be in his new book, Three Dads and a Baby: Adventures in Modern Parenting, out March 9 from Cleis Press, an imprint of Start Publishing.
Read an excerpt from Jenkins’ book below.
Chapter 1: Neonatal Life Destruction Syndrome
We’d heard crazy stories from all sorts of friends and relatives about how a baby would explode our lives. “You think you’re tired at work?” one said. “Wait till baby.” Another told us he couldn’t possibly bother with canvas grocery bags: “It’s just way too much to think about after a baby.” One couple didn’t eat at a restaurant for a full year after their baby was born, despite living fifteen minutes from their parents, who had successfully raised three children to adulthood. We had friends who never flushed a toilet after 8:00 p.m. to avoid waking their kids. But Neonate Life Destruction Syndrome was not going to happen to us.
Even when she was just six days old, everything had come together. No one was exhausted. We had her routines sorted out; baby was kicking ass and taking milk. She wasn’t quite ready for a STEM career or the United States Senate, but she did seem ready for college (drinking, sleeping all day, partying all night). We’d had twenty visitors. We’d watched two movies at home. And we’d posted all her adventures on social media, from her first moments to napping with our dogs. I’d already gotten a dozen very serious replies to my toileting post: “Any reason I can’t dangle a poopy baby over a bidet? Asking for a friend.” I hadn’t taken leave from my career as a hospital doctor. I’d even polished off several work presentations, hosted a webinar on hospital safety and chaired two hospital committee meetings.
So we felt ready to take her out into the world. Why not shopping? We needed both staples and treats, as every healthy family runs on a mixture of organic vegetables and chocolate. In our first humbling parenting experience, we’d lost track of what day it was and arrived at Costco mid-day on Saturday. But baby slept through it all, snuggled to my partner Jeremy’s chest with a baby-porting gadget called a ring sling. One admiring shopper went out of her way to thank my partner for doing his part. “Used to be the men made the women do all the work. More and more men are contributing. The times sure are a-changing!” Jeremy, ever the gracious pastor’s son, smiled and thanked her. After she walked on, he said, “Lady, you don’t know the half of it!” The woman hadn’t realized it, but she’d just met a true modern family. Three fathers had accompanied our bundle of joy to the store that day.
Alan and I had been partnered for fourteen years, and Jeremy had joined us five years ago, making us a polyamorous triad, or “throuple.” Our baby’s genetic mom had come with us to the store and smiled watching people try to guess at the relationships that bound the four of us. And earlier that day, we’d fed baby some colostrum from her amazing surrogate, who’d been pumping precious breast milk for us since the birth. She’d done all the hard work for us, and we were having an amazing week precisely because none of us had to go through the trials of childbirth or breastfeeding.
All told, it took three fathers and two women to make our beloved little one. We know, right there, some people have some strong opinions about our decision to raise children despite knowing nothing else about us. According to the American Library Association’s records of book suppression, the children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies was the ninth most challenged book in the 1990s. America has changed a lot since then, but imagine what the reception would be for Heather Has Three Polyamorous Daddies and Two Mommies!
We’re not an ordinary family. But do we have crazy lives, wild parties, unstable relationships, lots of drama, and concerned families? No, not even remotely. We work, we clean the house, we ask each other what we should have for dinner, we pay taxes, we Netflix. Nothing to see here.
But was becoming poly parents an adventure? Oh yes.
Three Dads and a Baby hits shelves March 9 and is available for pre-order now.