Munchausen isn't Mothering
I have been enjoying "Law & Order" on Netflix lately, the original series or as Julia puts it: the mother ship. I just watched an episode entitled "Precious". The subject was a parent that suffered "Munchausen by proxy" syndrome. I was drawn into the storyline. I found myself feeling angry. I was on board with Sam Waterston's character when he suggested sterilization as a plea bargain offer.
I flashed back on my Julia's infancy. I remember feeling like I never achieved REM sleep the first year and a half of her life. I felt guilt over smoking during pregnancy. I worried that she would suffer crib death. I would wake up and use a flashlight to stare at her chest to see if it was moving and she was breathing. I still do. Not as often. But my guilt has never completely gone away. Julia was 4, 6, or 8 weeks premature, had RSV at 2 1/2 months, and developed asthma by 1 1/2 years old, all likely due to my smoking during pregnancy. At least to my guilty mind. Not all of those conditions have been proven yet. I managed with the help of my mother and sister, to treat RSV at home using a warm mist humidifier, and a recliner to hold her in a slanted position 24/7 for over 3 days until her condition stabilized. In older children, and those that were not premature, RSV (respiratory syscinctial? virus) is not much more than a cold. For preemies with underdeveloped lungs, it can be and often is fatal. Today there exists a vaccine given to preemies at birth for RSV. A link between RSV and asthma has been shown to be probable. I struggled with guilt over every asthma attack, every episode of bronchitis, every time she had any breathing issue, even hyperventilation syndrome.
I find myself baffled by someone who can kill for the rush they get from sympathy. I never wanted sympathy, I wanted a cure. I wanted to go back and never smoke. I worried sometimes that the doctors at the emergency room would think I was a sufferer of Munchausen because it felt like we were so often there. I didn't want attention. I wanted Julia to be well. I wanted her not to suffer because I was foolish enough to deny smoking could cause prematurity, etc. There was a portable crib in our bedroom and a regular crib in Julia's room. She never slept in her bedroom until she got her "big girl" "Barney" bed. She was a year and half old. I nearly wore out the carpet after she started sleeping in there. If I got up to pee, I checked on her. If I woke up for any reason, I checked on her. Overprotective? Maybe. Guilt? Certainly.
I cannot fathom "Munchausen by Proxy". I think these people are missing a true maternal gene. They do not have the capacity in them to care for another person. I don't think that we necessarily sterilize them, but I think it should be offered them as a voluntary option. I think psychotherapy should be a mandate in any sentence related to the syndrome. It is stunning that there is no screening during pregnancy for this mental defect. If I had the capacity to scientificly study this, I would do so. If there were a screening, early intervention might help the sufferers cope and perhaps even play a role in raising children. Perhaps they haven't located enough victims to mandate a study. I find it terrifying that someone out there may have this, and no one knows or can help.