Danielle Fishel’s early days as a mom were certainly not what she expected. Danielle and husband Jensen Karp welcomed son Adler Lawrence Karp about a month early on June 24.
Danielle’s water had broken four days prior. Doctors later determined it was necessary she deliver at 35 weeks after discovering fluid in her baby boy’s lungs.
Adler was in the NICU for three weeks as doctors worked to determine the cause and treat the newborn. As if all of this wasn’t difficult enough for the first-time parents, Danielle was further upset when she learned that breastfeeding was actually making her little boy’s condition worse.
“I had this feeling instantly of somehow it was my fault,” the 38-year-old told People of learning the news.
Of course, Danielle couldn’t have known that the fluid in Adler’s lungs was the result of chylothorax, a leak in the lymphatic system. Now she’s opening up about the emotional experience and what she learned from it.
Danielle Fishel has been very open about the difficult circumstances surrounding her son’s birth. The 38-year-old actress gave birth to her first child with Jensen Karp, Adler Lawrence Karp, on June 24, at 35 weeks pregnant.
Adler was delivered early after an ultrasound revealed fluid buildup in his lungs. Doctors initially thought the problem was clearing up, but Adler ended up being rushed from Providence Tarzana Medical Center, where he was born, to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Adler ended up spending three weeks in the NICU, which was very emotional for the couple. “I rode in the ambulance with him. When we got to Children’s Hospital, we had been told that they were most likely going to have to tap his lungs to drain the fluid, which is a surgical procedure. Not extremely invasive in the world of surgical procedures for babies, but not something you want to have to do if you don’t have to,” Danielle explained to People.
Doctors determined that Adler was suffering from chylothorax, a condition where there’s a leak in the lymphatic system. As a result, they learned that he couldn’t be breastfed, which was hard news for Danielle to handle.
“I had this feeling instantly of somehow it was my fault,” Danielle admitted feeling upon learning that her breast milk was contributing to the fluid in his lungs. Adler had to be put on a special formula that doesn’t use the lymphatic system.
“This milk that I’m producing that’s supposed to keep him alive and is supposed to be the healthiest thing for him is the thing that’s keeping him in the hospital,” Danielle told People she thought to herself. “I just felt like it was somehow my fault. Even though I knew that wasn’t really rational, it’s hard.”
“You want your body and everything you do as a mom to be functioning optimally for your baby and when it’s not, you feel like a failure,” Danielle explained. It’s a sentiment that other mothers who haven’t been able to breastfeed have commonly expressed.
“There was a little bit of a mourning process and a grieving process for me there, but now that I’ve come to terms with it and I know that hopefully, the plan is that I get to transition back to breast milk in the next few weeks, I’m feeling much better about that,” Danielle explained. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Although she’s excited that she may get another shot at breastfeeding, she’s trying to be realistic about the odds. “I don’t anticipate [Adler] ever latching because he’s never been on my breast before, so it may be possible that he’s never able to actually breastfeed that way,” she explained.
If that doesn’t work out, she plans to continue pumping. “I have plenty of milk stored and I can always feed him from a bottle,” she acknowledged. “He’s a pro with the bottle now,” she added proudly.
Danielle also noted that the little guy has quite a healthy appetite. She joked that he “seems to have inherited his love for food from his mother because he opens his eyeballs from a nap and immediately wants a bottle in his mouth.”
Danielle is also learning how to grapple with mom guilt, which she said, “does not waste anytime kicking in. … Every second that you are awake doing anything, you feel guilty that you aren’t at home.”
She also can’t shake that bit of fear of missing out when she is home. “Every second that you’re at home, you feel like you’re missing out on the other things that you’re supposed to be doing,” she countered.
The entire emotional roller coaster has been worth it for Danielle and Jensen, who are loving every minute with Adler. “When he is awake and alert, he makes very intense eye contact. He’s very curious. We can’t wait to hear what his voice sounds like. We can’t wait to know what his final eye color is going to be,” she gushed.