Tom Daley talks Robbie Ray, surrogacy and the best parenting advice he’s ever received

Tom Daly and Lance Black interview

by Aimee Jakes |
Updated on

"I think he's the world's cutest baby, there has never been a baby this cute," Lance (full name Dustin Lance Black) adamantly announces which makes both husband Tom Daley and their seven-week son giggle. "Look he can hear us, he's getting embarrassed!"

The couple are proud parents of Robbie Ray who was born via a surrogate in June 2018 and have been taking to fatherhood like er, Tom Daley in water.

We caught up with Tom and Lance to discuss their surrogacy, baby Robbie Ray and what they've learned since becoming parents...

Hi Tom and Lance! So, did you always want to be a dad?

Tom - I've always wanted to be a dad. When I was coming to terms with my sexuality that [not having children] was the one thing that really upset me and I didn't know what the options were as same-sex parents. Once I started to research some of the options, I then realised that having a family would be possible. I've been collecting baby clothes and all sorts for the past six years.. before I even met Lance!

Lance - Baby clothes have been appearing in our house since we've met!

Tom - And we named our children, a boy and a girl's name, within the first week.

Lance - I grew up in the United States in a Mormon home and I know that's not a common faith here, but one of the qualities that are common in a Mormon home is to have a *lot* of kids! So I come from a family of three which is a small family because my mum's paralysed and three is a miracle. But, I just come from a big extended southern family, which is all about family so it was never a question of whether I'd have kids. When we met and you [turns to Tom] started naming them on that first date on our first bike ride on our first weekend together, I was like, 'this could be something big, this could be something special!'

What names did you choose on the bike ride?

Tom - Robbie Ray! That was one of them. We won't say the girl's name just in case we use the girl's name...

Are there plans for more children in the future?

Tom - I've always said that I'd want a football team!

Lance - Wait, how many are on a football team? [starts to count]

Tom - Eleven! Unless you do five-a-side... I think for both of us, family is the most important thing always. Since Robbie's come into our lives, he's filled us with so much happiness, joy and love. Having our friends and family come round to visit and see him...

What kind of dad did you think you'd be?

Tom - It's funny because before Robbie was born I read every kind of book to prepare as much as I could, thinking 'this is how it's going to be', 'this is what I need to do' Robbie was born and I don't think anything can prepare you for being a parent. Everything you think you know, you don't and you learn so much so quickly in the first 48 hours. It's just changed my perspective on absolutely everything. It makes you a whole different kind of emotional person. Lance was saying he see's every person as somebody's child now.

Lance - I thought I was really well-prepared. Then you hold him for the first time and you realise the very best instruction manual for being a parent is that child. You need to listen to him or her and they're going to let you know what it is they like, what they don't like and what they need. There is the partnership there. I didn't know I'd become so emotional. Every time I look at him... I wanted to care for someone, I wanted to raise someone, I wanted to have a family, but I didn't take the time to think about the love that would be coming towards me. It's overwhelming!

Tom - You don't realise you can fall in love with someone so quickly and so unconditionally. Even though he wakes us up in the night and even though he screams and poops and pees, he makes everything worth it!

What kind of baby is Robbie?

Tom - He's very chilled!

Lance - He's a big baby. It really helps that Tom's an athlete, he's good at noting what time he was fed and the number of ounces, so we listen to Robbie's needs, but we also got into some good patterns. He's also the world's cutest baby, there's never been a baby this cute...  [Robbie Ray starts to smile]

Tom- Oh look we're embarrassing him!

[Tom and Lance laugh]

What was your experience with surrogacy? What surprised you the most?

Tom - I didn't know anything about the surrogacy before we started the process. It's been a long process. We decided to do it in the US, because of the laws there regulate surrogacy both medically and to have the surrogate's interests at heart as well as the intended parents. Because in the UK, the laws aren't quite there to protect. We also decided on the States because either one us was going to be doing it away from home so we tried to do it in the best place for everyone.

Lance - The biggest surprise for me was I didn't realise your surrogate really becomes part of your family. Some of that is the process you go through. We will always be in contact with the surrogate and he (Robbie) will know her. There should be no shame around surrogacy. There's a lot of reasons people use surrogacy it's not just same-sex parents, it's also heterosexual couples with health conditions or fertility issues, I hope we can shed enough light on surrogacy to get remove the shame.

'There should be no shame around surrogacy!'

What's the best parenting advice you've ever received?

Tom - You get lots of advice from lots of people and after taking lots of people's advice on board, the one piece of advice I would give is not to listen to anyone else's advice! At the end of the day, every baby is different. Reading all the books you think every baby is going to be the same, but that person who's written the book may have only raised their own children and there are millions of children in the world that are all so different from each other. Just listen to your baby. We just want the best for baby Robbie so he can be happy and healthy and all that kind of stuff.

'My advice would be not to listen to anyone's advice!'

Lance - My best advice was from you [Tom] You had the idea to bring his mum out [to the States] after he was born, and boy, that was lifesaving advice. It was an extra pair of hands!

Tom - It was also nice to bring out my mum who's been through it, because as a new parent the first 48 hours was like 'oh my goodness, he's asleep but is he breathing?" and my mum would be the rational voice and would be like, 'he's fine!'

What's your favourite thing about being a dad?

Tom - For me, it's the moments that he looks like he's looking into your soul. When he really looks at you and sees you... that has been one of the most amazing experiences! One thing I didn't know about being a dad was that nappies turn blue when your baby peed. And, this on the inside [points to Pampers Pure nappy] he can pee in this and it'll feel heavy, but if you touch it... dry! My mind was blown.

Lance - Every night, when the sun is setting, Robbie and I dance to jazz together. Now, he knows it's coming and he starts to giggle because he knows he's about to get spun and dipped!

You tend to keep Robbie off social media, is that a conscious decision?

Tom - Everything's always subject to change, but for right now we wanted to keep him our private little munchkin. There's not that much thought around it, but we just want to keep him to ourselves without lots of people trying to take photos. Sometimes friends and family say how they want to see him and we're like, 'come see him then... see the real thing, he's right here!' He's a family member, not a new car!

Lance - Who knows maybe one day he'll demand it... 'I want to be in that photo!'

Tom, are you going to encourage Robbie to follow your diving footsteps?

Tom - Whatever he wants to do! I think doing something movement-wise is important.

Lance - He sure does love the bath! He loves that water.

Tom - I did so many different things when I was younger, I think learning to swim from a young age is important as a life-saving skill. But for me, it's just whatever he wants to do. I know what it's like getting into sport and it's tough! It's really hard work, especially when it's a high level. He can do it for fun and if he enjoys it and wants to work on it then great, but if he doesn't, great! We want to be guided by what he wants to do.

New father, Tom Daley is the Pampers Pure Partner and UK Brand Ambassador for the launch of the new Pure Protection range.

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