Three dads, a baby and the legal battle to get their names added to a birth certificate
Updated 1751 GMT (0151 HKT) March 6, 2021
(CNN)Meet Ian Jenkins and his partners, Alan and Jeremy.
They're a "throuple": a committed polyamorous relationship involving three people.
And after a complicated and expensive court battle to all become legal parents, the trio are raising two toddlers in Southern California -- and proving how families come in all forms.
They're part of a unique and very modern family that includes three dads, two surrogates and one egg donor. In a new book, "Three Dads and a Baby," Jenkins chronicles their search for potential egg donors and a surrogate, and a fight to change a medical and legal system geared toward heterosexual couples.
The three men have all been together for more than eight years. Jenkins says they fought to get all three of their names listed on the birth certificates to protect their parental rights and the rights of their children. The process was emotionally grueling.
"But we are hopeful that other people benefit from the experience we had," he told CNN in a recent interview, "and that it's easier, less expensive and less stressful for them."
Two men and no baby
As a gay teenager in Virginia, Jenkins says he faced death threats after coming out and couldn't imagine he'd ever be able to openly love another man.
"I was completely isolated. I didn't know a single gay person when I was in high school," he says. "I thought I'd never be able to live an authentic life.
"It never occurred to me that people could even have two partners."
He met Alan while they were doing their medical residencies in Boston.
"He 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 says.
He was drawn to Alan's calm demeanor, witty comebacks and compassion for his patients. In the book, Jenkins recalls being touched by Alan's tender care of a frail old woman who had been hospitalized. He nicknamed her "my Golden Girl."
Their first date was in 2003. Jenkins went to Alan's place with a baking stone, homemade pizza dough and wine, and made him dinner. The couple later decided Boston was too chilly and agreed to move in search of warmer weather. They ended up in San Diego, where Jenkins is an associate professor of medicine at UC San Diego and Alan works at a hospital as a psychiatrist.
"Turns out, the medical center that's the farthest from Boston in the continental United States is in San Diego," Jenkins says. "So here we are."
Three men and a baby
After almost a decade together, Jenkins introduced to Alan the idea of bringing a third man into their partnership. They met Jeremy online, and he joined them in 2012.
Jeremy works in animal medicine at the San Diego Zoo, where his patients range from apes to California condors. To protect their privacy, Alan and Jeremy prefer not to use their last names.
Alan brought up the possibility of having children several times, but the numerous surrogacy and parenting challenges they'd face as a same-sex threesome appeared insurmountable.
"We knew he was right, but we never took the first step. Then Jeremy entered the picture: a zookeeper and nurturer by trade," Jenkins writes in the book. "With a third voice at the table, our conversations about parenting began to change."
The stress that comes with parenting sounded less intimidating when shared among three people.
"We just didn't have the ovaries," Jenkins writes.