Danielle Fishel, aka Topanga on Boy Meets World, just opened up about feeling something that many new moms experience—"mom guilt"—and how her son's medical condition only exacerbated the problem for her.
In a new essay for Good Morning America, Fishel, 38, wrote about the stressful events that happened after her son Adler's birth on June 24 of this year, when Adler, who was born four weeks early, was found to have fluid in his lungs.
After his birth, Adler stayed in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) at Children's Hospital Los Angeles for three weeks and was eventually released—only to be found to have fluid in his lungs again in September.
The culprit? Fishel's breastmilk, which only exacerbated a rare condition called chylothorax in her son Adler, according to People. Fishel wrote about coming to terms with the fact that her breast milk was harming her child in the GMA essay: “The guilt arrived with gusto," she wrote. "‘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.'"
Fishel didn't go into too much detail about her son's condition, but, she explained, "the doctors assured me Adler would most likely grow out of this someday and I should keep pumping and eventually, hopefully, he'd be able to reap the benefits of breast milk." However, a subseqent x-ray revealed the presence of fluid and prompted doctors to direct Fishel to stop breastfeeding. "I was, quite honestly, an emotional wreck," writes Fishel.
What is chylothorax, exactly?
Chylothorax is rare, affecting just one in every 20,000 pregnancies, and it causes lymphatic fluid to leak into a space found between the chest wall and lungs, per the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). A number of things can cause chylothorax, according to CHOP, including tumors, injury to the central lymphatic system, infections, and congenital syndromes; and symptoms of chylothorax include chest discomfort, difficulty breathing, and a cough.
Imaging tests—x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans—are often used to diagnose children with the condition, per CHOP, and treatment depends on what exactly caused the condition. Fortunately, children with chylothorax usually do well and treatment typically provides a long-term cure. According to People, baby Adler is doing fine now.
In addition to worries related to her son’s medical condition, Fishel wrote about guilt she felt related to her career. She reflected on the night she came home from her first day at work since Adler’s birth. “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?” Fishel recalls thinking. She concluded that “none of us escape mom guilt.”
However, Fishel sees a silver lining around the mom guilt, in the form of what her son has already accomplished in his lifetime. She told a GMA reporter: “I will always be able to tell him, ‘You’ve already done hard things. 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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