By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine
Ian Mucklejohn: Father and mother
Ian Mucklejohn made history when he became the first single man in the UK to have his own children without a female partner. But he knew one day they would have to meet their mother.
Five years ago bachelor Ian Mucklejohn, a 58-year-old businessman, decided that what was missing in his life was children.
He could have found a woman just to have a baby with, but didn't think that would have been ethical or morally justifiable. Also, if the relationship broke up, the mother would get custody.
So with the help of the internet he found an American egg donor, had her eggs fertilised with his sperm in California and paid a surrogate to carry the babies - something he would not have been able to do legally in the UK.
The total cost topped £50,000 and the result was triplets - Piers, Lars and Ian. Six weeks after their birth, Mr Mucklejohn flew to the US to collect them and bring them home. Five years on his self-created family is happy and healthy.
Despite being very close to his own mother, he does not believe his sons are missing out because the concept of "mother" plays no part in their daily existence.
"I am the anchor in their lives," he says. "That's not to say having a mother isn't a great thing, but as long as I am doing my best by them I don't think they are missing out. I knew I could combine both genders, and do constantly with the boys. I give them lots of cuddles and then play football in the garden with them.
The triplets aged five
"My children are the product of a single-parent family, like many of their friends and lots of people in today's society."
But the possibility that they might want to know more about their mother in the future played a large part in Mr Mucklejohn's decision to take them to the US recently to see how and where they were created, and meet their biological mother Melissa Valdovinos and surrogate mother Tina Price.
"I don't know if the children will ever need their mother," he says. "I don't think they will because she has never been a part of their daily lives, but I think it is important to keep a good relationship with Melissa - also Tina - so in the fullness of time they can find them and talk to them if they want."
For Melissa, their biological mother, the extraordinary moment she met her three sons for the first time was a positive experience, but no more than that.
Egg donor Melissa Valdovinos
"I felt attached to them but not in the respect that I feel they belong to me," she says. "I don't see myself as their mummy because I'm not doing the job of a mother. I realise they are Ian's responsibility - not mine."
Melissa's own mother walked out on her when she was just two. She does not feel that she suffered as a result, which could explain her ability to remain detached. It was more emotional for surrogate mother Tina, who cried when she saw the boys.
"I still feel connected even though I don't know them," she says. "My heart felt full just watching them play and watching them with their Dad. It felt nice to have been part of it and seeing that they are a family."
Their reactions proved to Mr Mucklejohn that he had picked the right women for the job.
"For Melissa there was a satisfaction with what she had done and for Tina it was a bit more emotional," he says.
Overcome: Surrogate Tina Price
"But I had a sense when I chose them both that they were doing it for the right reasons and there would be no difficulties on their side when the babies were born."
And for the boys? They are still too young to fully understand the role both women played in their creation and behaved like typical five years olds, more interested in playing than meeting the women.
"They never really asked before and they have shown no more interest in either of their mothers since they met them," says Mr Mucklejohn.
He is aware that his decision about how to create a family is not understood by everyone. But he published a book And Then There Were Three to set the record straight.
Since then the response has been mostly positive, especially from people unable to have children themselves.
"I have seen the unhappiness childlessness brings and this country makes it too hard to overcome that," he says. "But it can be done."
One Life: I'm The Daddy will be broadcast on Wednesday 17 May at 2240 BST on BBC One.
Now that's what I call equality...!
The important thing is that the children are wanted and loved and you can't ask for more than that.
John is right this country makes things difficult to do or achieve anything and hence the extreme measures some people have to take to find peace, happiness, fufillment, etc...
Good luck with your children...I hope they bring you much joy...!
And for everyone else having two parents dosen't always guarntee happy, upbringing, healthy life...
Asha, London, UK
Go Ian! Go Ian! Finally, a reassertion of man's ability to control and nurture children. A beacon of hope for all men out there!
Warren, Ealing, London
Money can't buy you love, but you can give it a go, eh? The real cost is not money, but dignity. How very sad, how very selfish.
I'm disappointed by this, from his business background he thinks that if he can afford it then it's ok (I was going to say 'and it's not illegal' but that is not the case). Children need both a mother and a father. These kids will presumably lose their 'parent' early and grow up without the concept of a mother - how will that affect their abitilty to form healthy long lasting relationships?
No doubt the guy is sensing his own mortality and wants to leave his millions to someone but is too selfish to adopt. Maybe he should care more about these children growing up without learning what a mothers love is rather than his own selfish desires.... children are not nice-to-have commodities !
pastor alex nicol, greenock, scotland
With the amount of teenagers having kids with no means to support them financially or emotionally why do we pick fault at a man who can offer children a great and secure home? We do not go mad when a child is born into a benifit orientated home, yet we are concerned of the welfare of 3 kids living with a man who clearly desperately wanted children, and can give them everything they want. I applaud him
Sven B, radlett
When I read stories like this, while my hear goes out to childless people. I always feel that the child always loses out big time. The potential parents always focus on their needs and never seem to worry about the effect of being just the result of an egg or sperm donor has on the child. It could be quite devastating for someone to come to terms with in the future knowing your biological father or Mother may never be known or want you. Surely it is bad enough when a child is born unwanted and is adopted. It is about time the child's moral welfare came first they arn't an accessory !
What a wonderful story. There are lots of children in this country who are sadly abused and neglected by their parents - this shows that a caring, loving devoted single parent of either sex can make a truly happy and stable family environment for children. Lots of fathers bring their children up alone after perhaps the death, or desertion of the mother - Mr Mucklejohn's case is no different. Well done to him.
Sam Williamson, Wakefield, England
Having recently divorced and bringing up a 9 and 14 year old myself and working and paying through the nose to my ex I fully appreciate that society needs to change its attitudes to family life especially in respect to the law. The law is HEAVILY weighted in every way to the woman and does not take into account new family units.
Ted Whitton, Kent
An interesting story and situation. Never being in that situation makes it difficult to judge, but by having two children of my own I understand how happy he must be finally. Good luck to him, there are plenty of one parent families consisting of just the mother, so why not !
Jonathan, Tylers Green
What a fascinating story, and I fully commend Ian for his actions and continued sucess in raising his familly. The lack of one parent or other in a childs upbringing remains to be seen, but this applies with divorce too. In fact the latter is worse as the child will often have "known" the parent (usually father) who then leaves their life.
Its a pity the UK seems to be so biaised against the father in divorce, by default.
Far play to Mr. Mucklejohn. As long as the children have a loving home it shouldn't matter whether they have a mom and dad.
It is a good thing that he is not hiding anything from the children about where they are from and how they came to be here.
Michelle Kemp, Birmingham, West Midlands (UK)
His fear that in case of divorce the mother would achieve custody is justified and an increasing fear among fathers.I was not married to the mother of my daughter and have spent 6 years in court to see my daughter.I have not seen her for a year.I would take the option followed by this man if I had the financial recourse.I wish him and his family well.
Paul, Punta del Este , Uruguay
What a loser! Just because he can't be bothered to invest in a relationship like a normal adult he buys children ! What a sad individual.
Nigel Ruchpaul, Reading
Well done. What a great paternal role model, I wish them all the best. There is precious little coverage of fatherhood issues. How often do you hear the term "working father", yet we virtually all are!
Jonathan Hoare, Kew Gardens
While Mr Mucklejohn's desire to become a loving father is to be applauded and supported - I am somewhat concerned about the long term effects that this apparent 'mother descrimination' may have on these boys and how it may affect their adult lives and relationships. Not having a mother is not necessarily the question, as long as they have some form of daily female input into their lives. And also lets draw attention to Mr Mucklejohn's age - we are very quick to condemn elderly mother's, what makes this situation any different.
Pathetic. Is that really what we call progress ?
Are children like any merchandises, here just to fullfill a whim ?
Christian Imbert, Paris
A child not needing it's mother? These people are truly on cloud cuckoo land. It's alright for him I suppose: he's rich enough to pay a nanny to do the mothering for him. Absolutely disgusting
I have nothing but admiration for Ian. Although I grew up in completely different situation I am still from a single parent family who was brought up by his father from an early age. Since losing my mother through illness he has been a massive influence on me developing into the person I am today and I don't know of another father son relationship that is so close. We are more like best friends and further proof that a situation like this can work to the benefit of all involved.
Rob, London, UK
Whilst I believe that children can flourish in a single parent family I still feel this should be the result of necessity and not through choice. The report does not say if the children have a strong female influence in their daily lives, which I feel is important for the childrens social and emotional development.
I feel that such situations are bourne in part from the selfishness of the would be single parent, where the childs needs are deemed less important than the parents wants.
Neil Geddes, Dunfermline
Being a single parent father myself, you can not moralise the fact that kids be they boys or girls need the influence & input of both parents. I believe it to be wrong & not in the best interests of these children for this man to make this judgement, after all what will he tell his kids when they are older? Yes you do have a mother but its not really important???Put yourself in this childs place how would you feel? detatched & emotionally undervalued perhaps? Also one parent will never be able to do what two can & with three kids & one parent how can he honestly say he is giving the children an adequate share of his time? This whole story makes me cringe when I read it & I pity his kids.
Robert Thomas, Bounemouth
An excellent outcome, it appears that these children will have a happier and healthy upbringing, more than can be said for some more natural families.
This was obviously very carefully and well thought out by the father from I presume some professional advice. It's a shame that such rational thought could not have been utilised in Britain.
I hope that this will be picked up in this country and not be exiled by misguided morals and ethics.
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