If you haven’t heard of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, it is a mental illness that manifests in a caregiver, who medically abuses their child in order to gain emotional benefit from the concern and sympathy that they receive by being the mother of an ill child.
The disorder is named after the Baron Von Munchhausen, a 16th Century nobleman who invented wonderful tales of his travels and passed them off as true.
Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy has been used in popular culture as a crime drama punch line for many years, however in real life the disorder tends to be overlooked for diagnosis because it just seems such a long bow to draw; what kind of terrible mother would do that to their own child? Sickness in our children is one of the most terrifying things a parent can imagine, so to consider causing such a sickness intentionally is, to the normal parent, unthinkable.
Lacey Spears, the American woman accused of murdering her own child by secretly feeding him salt though his stomach feeding tube, is a mommy blogger, who detailed her 5 year old son Garnett’s hospitalizations and illnesses on her blog. She has since been charged with his murder after he died from saline poisoning, a poison that is allegedly difficult to administer any way other than through a stomach feeding tube.
I'm not really a ‘Mommy Blogger’, although I may talk about my children when writing and have shared two photos of my youngest daughter as a very young baby publicly. However, where is the line that I draw that I am not using my children to get my own attention? I never mention their names or physical details because I don’t like the idea of doing so without their permission.
Does this mean I think doing so is wrong? No, I think it is the mother’s choice. And I empathise with the mothers of ill children who vent online, and gather much needed support through online communities.
But this alleged Lacy Spears incident has put a bit of a dampener on the whole thing, especially with the idea of each click on her blog feeding her need to hurt her child.
And while I deeply hope that blogging one’s child abuse is a very rare phenomenon, I am sadly suspicious that it isn’t, and that there are mothers out there who are using blogging and social media for such very wrong reasons.
For more detailed information on MSBP, including warning signs, see here: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/factitious_disorders/hic_munchausen_syndrome_by_proxy.aspx
If you suspect child abuse of any kind, please contact your local police station or child protection agency.