Danielle Fishel Opens Up About Mom Guilt & Son's Health Crisis in Emotional Essay

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Danielle Fishel
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Danielle Fishel is reflecting on her tumultuous first pregnancy.

On Monday, the Boy Meets World alum appeared on Good Morning America to discuss the harrowing experience of her baby boy, Adler, arriving four weeks early in June and learning that he had fluid in his lungs, leading to weeks in the hospital.

In conjunction with her appearance on the morning show, the 38-year-old actress and director wrote an essay about the ordeal and what she learned along the way.

"I had heard of 'mom guilt.' It was right up there with other types of guilt I heard about growing up, like 'Catholic guilt' or 'Jewish guilt,' she wrote. "I heard it was the awful feeling you're never doing what you're supposed to be doing, or not doing enough of what you should be doing, or not doing what you should be doing well enough."

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One week ago today, on 6/24 at 4:52am, Adler Lawrence Karp made his entrance into the world, 4 weeks early. My water broke on 6/20, one day before my work week directing at Raven's Home ended and my maternity leave began. I was hospitalized that night and put on magnesium sulfate because Adler was only 35 weeks old. Unfortunately, after doing an ultrasound, our amazing OB discovered fluid in his lungs that was not there during our last appointment only 10 days earlier - and thus we entered a nightmare we'll never forget. We still don't have Adler home with us because the deeply good doctors and nurses in the NICU are working diligently to find out why the fluid is there and determine the best way to get it out. This has been the most trying week and a half of mine and @jensenkarp's lives but we have gotten through it with the support of our incredible family and friends who have shown up for us in unexpected ways. Jensen and I have also become closer than we ever thought possible and the love between us has grown exponentially as we have leaned on each other during both our highest highs and our lowest lows. We feel helpess and powerless and useless and we wanted so badly to follow our "birth plan," unsurprisingly none of which involved leaving our beautiful baby boy at the hospital for the first weeks of his life. We have also struggled with making this announcement - we are THRILLED Adler is here and we want to shout it from the rooftops but we know posting about his birth and it's complications opens us up to prying eyes - aka paparazzi staked outside our house, following our every move they way they did several times during my pregnancy. We are much too fragile for that right now and I pray wholeheartedly that we can have some space as we navigate these next few weeks. I can't wait to share more details about him with you (he hates having a poopy diaper for even 1 minute, he loves bath time, he has the cutest sneezes I've ever heard) and sing the praises of his NICU care team but I prefer to do that when Adler is in this crib in his nursery at home on a still unknown future date. P.S. the fox will be removed from his crib before he's ever in it. 👶❤️

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She explained that, prior to becoming a parent, she believed "mom guilt" would never befall her. Then Adler arrived with serious medical issues and Fishel writes that she began to question everything from continuing to work during her pregnancy to the spicy food she craved while expecting. And when they attempted to start Adler on breast milk, it exacerbated the circumstances.

"Unfortunately, after 10 days, the fatty nature of breast milk caused a major increase in the amount of fluid in his lungs and we were rushed by ambulance to Children's Hospital, where he was taken off breast milk and put on a medium chain triglyceride formula," she continued. "The guilt arrived with gusto. 'Why is my milk hurting my child? Is my baby allergic to me? Formula is bad for him because it's full of high fructose corn syrup. This is all my fault.'"

Thankfully, after three weeks, Fishel and husband, Jensen Karp, were able to take their child home and she was able to return to work directing the Disney Channel show, Sydney to the Max. However, that too was guilt-ridden experience for Fishel.

"My first day back was hard. I came home after being away for 12 hours and Adler was asleep for the night. He hadn't seen my face since 7 a.m. that morning and now he wouldn't see it again until he woke me up for a middle-of-the-night feeding," she wrote. "As I cried over his sweet sleeping face, the guilt came back with a vengeance. 'Does he remember me? Does he think I abandoned him? Am I hurting my son by desiring a career outside the home? Am I selfish?'"

She added: "For as long as I can remember, I've dreamed of being a mom. I looked forward to sleepless nights, poopy diapers and being so enamored with my baby that I lost hours of my life just staring at him while he slept. However, nothing in the world could have prepared me for the reality that being a mom would also mean never feeling like I'm good enough."

Fishel concluded by asking a favor of readers: encourage and support mothers everywhere because you never know who needs it.

"The next time you see a mom with her baby or young child, look her in the eye and honestly tell her she's doing an amazing job. Because you are, mama. I see you and you're doing great," she wrote.

See more on Fishel and her pregnancy journey below.

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