We met Tan France one year ago. Back then, Tan and husband Rob were expecting their baby boy via surrogate. Tan was cool and calm, talking about the stigma of formula feeding and wondering why it was even a conversation at all. Within days, Baby Ismail was born, almost two months early. Tan hopped a flight, circled the globe and made it to the NICU to meet his new son.
There are beautiful, beautiful moments that absolutely balance out how hard it is. But those hard moments are no joke.Tan France
Cut to now, Tan’s a dad. And not just a cool dad— a vocal, voicey, passionate dad who knows how important it is to feed your baby, however you choose to do it! He’s a dad surviving many sleepless nights and one who understands that buttons have no place on baby clothes (where’s the two way zipper already?!). In this edition of The Scoop, Tan gets deep into the new parenting space and joins us to talk about the guilt that comes with being a working dad. He shares his highs, his lows, his breaking points, and utter joys— it’s ultimately about trusting yourself as a new parent, even when you feel like you won’t survive another night of parenthood. Like so many of us, the rollercoaster of parenting is an absolute trip, one that Rob and Tan will be taking yet again because, this just in y’all— baby #2 is on the way!
Last time we spoke you hadn’t had your baby yet, how has this year changed for you?
Honestly, it’s changed my life almost completely. If I’m really honest, it’s been lovely, but also the hardest, most stressful thing I’ve ever done. Like you lose so much sleep. Nobody can prepare you for how hard it is.
I always thought that I was the strongest person psychologically. You can throw anything at me and I will deal with it. And I’ll put a smile on my face. However, those first few months of having a baby, you’re not prepared. You’re just not prepared. That lack of sleep, that lack of self care, that focus only on one thing and trying to keep that thing alive. The pressure of trying to keep that thing alive. It’s all consuming. It’s so hard. Beautiful, but difficult.
Did you feel prepared for parenthood?
I think that the reason I struggled so much is because I wasn’t prepared, and nobody can really prepare you for how hard it is to have a baby. And Rob’s a pediatric nurse of 15 years! We thought that would be enough!
You are so exhausted and you’re trying to feed them, and they won’t feed, and you’re trying to wrap them to sleep, and they won’t sleep. There are so many dark times where you just think, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” And thank God you find these mile markers where they get better, and they get better, and they get better. And finally you realize, “Oh gosh, it was all worth it.”
The first six months are so hard and no one warns you. Mothers in particular don’t want to feel attacked, or the guilt, or the shame associated with saying, “I’m really struggling.”
What changed at the six month mark?
People tell you very often that by the time you hit six months, it gets so much easier. And it absolutely does. From six months it has been pure joy. Yeah, sure, he’ll become an absolute monster for 20 minutes— but mostly the balance has shifted where 90% of the day is heaven. In the first few months, 75% of the day felt like pure hell, quite honestly. And then you’ve got the 25% of heaven. And so there is that weird shift and it pretty much happened exactly at six months.
What would you go back and tell yourself about becoming a new parent?
Prepare yourself for the fact that you are not going to get any sleep for about six months. Sure, you may get about an hour or two of decent sleep a night. But other than that, you will not get sleep.
I used to be judgmental and assume people can sleep when your baby sleeps— It’s a baby. The baby sleeps all the time. What’s the problem? Now I know that couldn’t have been a more ridiculous comment. I want everyone to know that you can’t just sleep when your baby sleeps. It’s not that easy. You’ve got other things to do. You’ve got to clean the bottles, clean your house, make food. You’ve still got to tend to yourself.
I wish I could go back to myself almost a year ago and say: Forget about yourself and your independence. That does not exist for the next six months!
There’s this assumption that if you’re on TV, that you have help 24/7, is this true?
For the first six months, we had no help whatsoever. Since we had a baby during the pandemic, nobody was at the house so I didn’t even have a family member over to help. It was purely us two and I was also working full time. When our baby was still in the NICU and I was working 12 hours a day, six days a week, Rob was basically a single parent.
Let’s go back to when Ismail was born, how was that experience for you?
I was not in the country when we had our baby, which was the most upsetting time of my life. It was just under two months before his due date and I thought— Of course I can go and shoot this thing in the UK. It’s only for 10 days. I’ll be back way before he’s due. We started getting the nursery ready. We started getting things ready for the house. We had nothing. We had literally nothing ready for this baby other than four outfits.
Never did we expect that our child would come seven and a half weeks early. I got the call at 7:00 in the morning. I was in the UK. It was nighttime in the US. I got a call from my husband saying, “The baby’s here.” And I said, “Okay.” Then I hung up and went back to sleep. After about a minute, I woke up thinking, “Who’s here? Who on earth is he talking about?” I was so out of it. And so, I called him back saying, “Wait, who’s here?” And he was like, “You idiot. Our baby’s here.” I just cried so much thinking there must be something wrong. How can he be here and I not be there with him? I was so upset. I’m not a very emotional person. My baby’s made me much more emotional than I ever expected I could be.
I felt physically sick. I couldn’t get home from the UK for 24 hours due to Covid restrictions. When Rob called me on FaceTime to show me the baby, I just could not control the crying.
No one can prepare you for the moment when you see your child. Not in real life. You’ve got this video that your partner’s showing you of your baby in the NICU covered in cables. I didn’t understand. I’ve never had a child before. I’ve never been in a hospital before. It’s very scary to see your baby like that. Rob was an angel. He was saying, “No, he’s doing great. He’s going to be fine.” But I kept thinking that he was just trying to protect me and not worry me, so the panic set in. Even if I didn’t see any of that, your baby coming almost two months early, you just assume something is terribly wrong.
How was meeting Ismail for the first time?
It took me about 48 hours to get home and as soon as I saw him and held him for the first time, I was like, “He’s going to be fine. He’s going to be absolutely fine.” As soon as I met him we did skin to skin.
I assumed that for women it’s an easier bond than for a man or the husband, but that wasn’t the case at all for me. As soon as he was on my body, I was like, “This is the most important thing in my world.” I always thought I could never love anything more than I love Robert— being with Rob for 14 years. He’s my best friend and he’s the best thing in the world. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me. And I thought, I can’t possibly love somebody more than that. And then this child comes into your life and you’re like,
I love my husband so much, but there’s nothing that compares with this feeling. This thing right here is my entire world.
Did you feel an immediate bond?
He was this tiny little thing. At that point, he was still only 3.4 pounds, and so he was this tiny little thing that could fit into my two hands, but as soon as he was on my bare chest, he was scratching and I felt his nails on my skin and I just thought, “That’s my boy.”
Do you think the bond is less because you weren’t breastfeeding?
That’s absolute bullshit! I developed a bond with my baby immediately, and then when I fed him for the first time, it strengthened my bond.
I did not have to breastfeed my baby to feel a bond with my child. My baby is the most important thing in the world to me.
It didn’t matter whether I breastfed him or not. I was feeding my baby. I was giving my child sustenance.
What are the challenges of having a preemie?
Having a preemie baby is stressful. The pediatrician said, “Your main goal is to try and feed him regularly, more regularly than we might encourage a full term baby. We need to get him up to a healthy weight.” That was our biggest challenge. And then, within three months, he was loving Bobbie so much. We were feeding him as often as he would allow us to. He charted so quickly. And even our pediatrician said, “You have clearly worked so hard at this.”
We treated feeding it as if it was our full-time job— to make sure he got up to weight and started to chart. And now he’s a healthy baby who is fat— probably fatter than most babies— and that brings us so much joy. I love a fat baby. They’re the cutest!
How long has Ismail been on Bobbie and how is he doing on it?
He loves his Bobbie. For the first seven weeks, as required by the NICU, we were using a different brand, a very, very popular American brand. We had to start on that formula at the hospital— we weren’t allowed to use Bobbie for the first seven weeks. We kept thinking, let’s get to seven weeks and hopefully then we can start feeding him organic baby formula. The other stuff was really tough on his stomach and so he was not pooping well at all.
When we brought him home a few weeks later, we started feeding him Bobbie. We were worried about the transition, quite honestly. It can be hard to switch from one formula to another and the doctors warned us about the switch. However, he didn’t skip a beat! He started pooping properly the next day, it was light on his stomach, there were no issues. Truly, it’s been wonderful. We’ve used Bobbie since he was seven weeks old. We still use Bobbie now. We’ve never needed another formula. He couldn’t be happier.
How have poops been on Bobbie?
Ever since we started feeding him Bobbie there have been five days total (in the seven months that we’ve been using Bobbie) where he hasn’t pooped, but the pediatrician said that babies can go up to three or four days without pooping. We’ve never gotten that far. Ever.
Did you ever think you’d spend so much time talking about baby poops?
Before having a baby, I was so self-absorbed. Did I perform well on camera? Did my hair look right? Now, the greatest joy of my day is when I get that call if I’m away from Rob saying, “He just pooed.” It’s as if I’ve won an Emmy.
Honestly, knowing that he’s had a poo every day feels as good as when I won the first Emmy.
It’s the best feeling in the world when baby poops. Because I know Ismail’s happy. And obviously, as a parent who loves their child, there’s nothing better than your child being happy and out of that discomfort.
Ismail will be graduating from Bobbie soon, how does that feel?
We’ve become so attached to how we feed our baby and Bobbie’s been there the whole time. It has felt like a community— a community that really champions the success of your baby, regardless how you feed them. To not have that anymore, to be out of that Bobbie community, does feel a little bit strange to think, that’s it? After a year, you just go back to feeding them whatever?
The community of Bobbie parents has become almost like a club we’re a part of. Not an exclusive club, but a club. And that feels special.
There are so many tough times when you are a first time parent. Having a community in whatever form is the thing that really helps you feel better about the process.
And if that one community comes from how you feed your baby, that’s enough to get you through!
Last year you joined us at Bobbie for our How is Feeding Going campaign. You took a stand with parents who chose to feed their babies formula— whether out of physical or mental necessity. Were you surprised by the backlash you received?
I was shocked at how angry people got. People thought that I was cheating by not breastfeeding and that I was doing something unnatural or unhealthy by using formula. They couldn’t be more wrong. I can’t breastfeed my child. I don’t have breasts. My husband doesn’t have breasts either. Does that mean that we shouldn’t feed our child? We’ve got to find a way that works for us— a healthy way that works for us. And that was Bobbie.
Look at our healthy baby. Look how happy our baby is. How can people say that their way is the only way? If I could breastfeed my child, I would have at least tried for sure. But that wasn’t an option for us. And we hope to have another baby very soon, who will also formula feed. There’s no shame in it. And you cannot come for me. Or come for me. You’ll see my rebuttal. And you won’t be happy about it.
I did receive harsh words on my instagram! But out of the 15,000 DM’s I got in response to the Bobbie campaign, at least 90% were supportive!
One might say fashion and formula do not go hand in hand because you’re going to get spit up on all the time. How has a baby changed your fashion game?
If I’m in wardrobe— which is me being camera ready— I will put a robe over myself or I will get all my love and kisses out the way before I’m dressed. When you have to be camera ready, you can’t have spit up all over yourself while presenting a show. That’s not the world I live in.
When I’m not working, I’m not anywhere near as glam as I was before having my baby (lots of wide-leg pants for the floor). I’ve become a lot more practical— but I do still believe you can look chic and practical.
How do you feel about babies and fashion?
The amount of people who interview me and say, “Your baby must be the best dressed baby.” No— I’m not insane. I’m a practical parent. My baby is in a onesie all day, every day. We have to change his diaper at least seven or eight times, and he poops a lot.
I’m not taking the time to put him in jeans, a sweater and a beautiful jacket. Who has time for that? I want to get in, get out. He is in a onesie that has a lot of stretch, and that has at least one zipper, preferably two, or even magnets, or Velcro, whatever.
Why are you dressing up your child like a 25 year old? It makes no sense. Actually, wait. This is a PSA. For anyone who wants to get gifts for a new parent, we do not appreciate anything other than baby grows, onesies. We call them baby grows in England, onesies. We don’t want anything more than that. Maybe a jacket to go out and about, but other than that, we don’t want those fancy clothes.
Our baby wears mostly Old Navy baby clothes, it’s really practical. And they’re one of the few companies that does two way zippers. It’s so easy, so smart. Why aren’t more people getting on the Old Navy game?! (I promise I’m not sponsored or endorsed by them at all.)
Will there be more babies on the way?
Is baby #2 a Bobbie exclusive?
Yes, this is the Bobbie exclusive!
Nothing’s official yet, however, we hope to be pregnant with our second child this year. We’ve found our surrogate so hopefully around summer of next year we should have our second baby.
Will there be more babies?
I had said that I wanted a minimum of three or four babies. I always wanted four, but I compromised with my husband, Rob, to settle for three. Now we will stop at two. That is the maximum. I feel like I might die if I try and have more than two. I’m too old for this. I’m way too old for this. This is a younger person’s game.
Do you speak to Ismail in Hindi? Why is it so important to you to share your language and heritage?
Yes, I am usually saying phrases like: stop that, yes my baby, or good boy, yes sweetheart.
We’re in Utah surrounded by white folk who speak English. I really want my son to know that he’s biracial. He’s half Pakistani, half white. I want him to understand that we embrace our Pakistani side. Yes, I want him to learn and speak English. But I want my son to know how to speak to his grandparents. When we go back to Pakistan or India, I want him to know how to communicate with our elders. Living in America, it could be very easy to just become purely Western, but I still want to be able to eat Indian food, speak Hindi and wear Indian clothes. I want Ismail to understand that he’s not just white— he’s Pakistani and white.
I want him to feel at least some connection with our culture. There are very few things that I get to do that remind me of where I came from and who I am.
From all of us at Bobbie, we so appreciate you Tan for sharing your authentic words of self-reflection and positivity. Thank you.
Stay tuned every month to get the scoop on modern parenthood from our community. And remember, you’re doing amazing.