Danielle Fishel is opening up about the dreaded “mom guilt” she felt immediately after her son Adler Lawrence was born three months ago.
The Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World alum, who previously detailed her baby boy’s health struggles exclusively with PEOPLE, penned a candid essay for Good Morning America describing the time before she became a mom, when she didn’t understand how moms she knew could feel guilt considering everything they did for their children who “were happy, well-loved, fed and clothed.”
“What was there to feel guilty about? Naively, and perhaps arrogantly, I thought, ‘I’ll never let myself have mom guilt,’ ” Fishel, 38, shares. “Then I had a baby.”
Adler — the actress’s first child with husband Jensen Karp — was born one month early and endured a subsequent three-week stay in the NICU after doctors noticed fluid retained in his lungs. And while he’s healthy today, Fishel admits his entrance into the world kicked off the guilty feelings at once.
“My ‘birth plan’ included having a natural childbirth, free from any drugs, because I read it was better for the baby and ultimately better for mom, as well,” she writes in her GMA essay. “Seventy-two hours later, due to a significant decrease in amniotic fluid, I was induced with Pitocin. My drug-free birth was out the window.”
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Danielle Fishel Reveals She Had to Stop Breastfeeding Her Newborn Son Adler During His Recovery
“The guilty thoughts came flooding into my head: ‘Why did my water break so early? Was it because I was on my feet working 12-plus hour days at almost 36 weeks? Was it all the spicy food I had been craving? Did I do something that will hurt my baby?’ ” Fishel recalls.
To add to her stress, Adler had a health condition called chylothorax — a “leak in the lymphatic system” that breast milk worsened. As a result, the couple “had to take him off of breast milk and put him on a specially formulated formula that doesn’t use the lymphatic system,” the mom of one previously told PEOPLE.
“The guilt arrived with gusto,” Fishel writes in her GMA essay. ” ‘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.’ “
Aside from the guilt over feeding Adler in a way she hadn’t anticipated, the star remembers her first day back at work being “hard” when she came home after not seeing her son for 12 hours: “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?’ ”
In the three-and-a-half months since becoming a parent, Fishel has learned that “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” — and that “none of us escape mom guilt.”
“It’s there whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or work outside the house, but one there is one thing I know for certain each and every mother has in common: We are trying our absolute best 100 percent of the time,” she says.
One huge pro that has come out of Fishel and Karp’s parenting experience, though, is the fact that little Adler has already proven he can clear major hurdles in his life.
“I will always be able to tell him, ‘You’ve already done hard things,’ ” she tells GMA’s Kayna Whitworth. ” ‘You did one of the hardest things ever when you were first born, so no excuses. You can do hard things.’ “
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