You really are spoilt for choice when it comes to the number of podcasts you can listen to these days. Recently, I have listened to the award-winning Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast by Giovanna Fletcher. In this podcast, Fletcher discusses parenthood with a different celebrity guest for each episode, and talks about their experiences of being a parent from conception through to the present day, often focusing on an area of a particular challenge or joy. This episode saw her interviewing the Olympic gold medallist, (and knitting enthusiast!), Tom Daley OBE, about his experience of parenthood with the challenges he faced as a gay man.
Daley and his husband, Dustin Lance Black, welcomed their first child, Robert Ray Black-Daley (Robbie Ray for short), back in 2018. Daley explained how he always knew he wanted to become a dad – he was even buying baby outfits for future children at airports, well before he even knew who he was going to have children with! He explained the close relationship he had with his own mother and father. How he always wanted to be the incredible father, just like his dad was to him, to a child of his own. He told Fletcher how, once he realised he was gay, he had asked himself 'what does this look like for me?' in terms of having children.
The Olympian went on to explain how he and his husband had heavily considered their options in terms of adoption and surrogacy, deciding on the latter to begin a family of their own. Daley outlined how both he and his husband had lost family members – Daley had lost his dad, and his husband had lost his mother and brother. Due to their losses, both knew they wanted their own biological children rather than adopting – so that the genetics of their past family members could live on in their future child. Despite the painful notion that Daley's dad will never meet Robbie Ray, Daley says he sees a resemblance to his father, Robert, in little Robbie Ray every single day.
Daley discussed the difficulties he and his husband faced in starting the process of surrogacy and the comparison between the USA and the UK. Due to the fact they felt the process was more streamlined in the USA, and that Daley's husband was also from California, they began looking for a surrogate in the USA.
Daley and his husband had the chance to meet both their surrogate and her family members. This had proved important for them, he said, as he noted how much he realised the surrogate's decision not only affected her, but also those closest around her. Her identity was kept anonymous as Daley said he wanted to respect the privacy she wanted for herself and her family. Daley described the joy he had felt when he learnt their surrogate had agreed to carry their child, describing surrogates as 'guardian angels.' It was also heart-warming to know that Daley and the surrogate still keep in contact to this day, with weekly video calls for Robbie to speak with his 'tummy buddy.'
California law permits only 'gestational surrogacy', requiring that the embryo must be created by IVF, and that the surrogate and egg donor (if needed) must be different people. This differs from the UK law where 'traditional surrogacy', where the surrogate becomes pregnant through insemination and is therefore also the egg provider is also an option. Therefore, Daley and his husband had to select an egg for their surrogate. The Olympian explained that they were not looking for any certain characteristics but wanted to pick someone who on paper they thought they would get along with, someone's who's values they agreed with.
I thoroughly enjoyed this podcast episode which provided an interesting insight into the personal decision Daley and Black made in welcoming a child of their own into this world. It was lovely to hear of how much this child is loved and how Robbie Ray has changed Daley's perspective on life.
I believe that this episode is a good listen for any future parent who is looking into surrogacy. Moreover, this would be a reassuring episode for any new parent to listen to, reinforcing that no matter how many different pieces of advice you will hear from other people, you should always go with your gut instinct, as no one will know your child better than yourself.
Fletcher made it a comfortable environment for Daley to open up about his journey into parenthood and his experiences so far. As a gay man, Daley outlined how he and his husband felt extra pressure in parenting, like they '…had to prove themselves above and beyond…' with regards to raising their son. As heartbreaking as it is to realise that one of the most influential people in Daley's life, Daley's dad, will never get to meet his grandchild, it is wonderful to hear how Daley has embraced parenthood. As Daley said it is '…everything and more that I could've ever dreamed it would be.'