Münchhausen’s By Proxy – that weapon of war against mothers. Used to vilify women in all sorts of scenarios and now, thankfully, largely dead in the water after Dr Roy Meadows was discredited for using it to bring to their knees the mothers of children who fell victim to cot death. I do not have a deep enough reserve of contempt for people who do this – and i have good reason to.
When Maddy was about 2, her toddler behaviour began to cause me enormous concern. She was a toddler who appeared to be neck deep in despair, rage, anxiety, compulsions and fear. Nothing i could do would help – she reacted with horror and fury to any deviation from normal, even down to simple things like me turning left at a roundabout we normally turned right at. She lined things up, she followed routines, she tried to hurt herself when things were beyond her control. She wasn’t talking and she had very little interest in communicating with anyone but me. Playgroups were a nightmare and the nursery she was briefly at reported that she sobbed inconsolably for hours at a time. She reacted badly to clothing, labels, textures and had items that she had to have with her at all times, panicking beyond all reasonableness if they were not in her hands. Loud noise, bright lights, too many people – all these things caused extreme reactions and yet often, if we were with other people, aside from being a little withdrawn, she seemed fine. She had a habit of ‘coping’ in public which would then cause monumental breakdowns once we were in private. It was distressing, frightening, worrying and i felt an enormous failure at not being able to either fix it or control it. Most of all, i just felt sad that i couldn’t seem to right her little world and the whole thing came to a head one day when a tantrum over some tiny thing, like which arm went into a coat first, resulted in her (at 2) trying to slam her head against a sharp corner of a piece of furniture in frustration and all i could do (heavily pregnant) was wrestle her to the ground and hold her down until she sobbed herself into a state where i could handle her and cuddle her.
So i went to a doctor. We’d just moved, Fran had come to the end of a long run of operations and i felt that i had tried everything i could and needed help. I described the behaviour and tentatively wondered if she might have some autistic tendencies, something that appeared to be manifesting in the family elsewhere. I asked for some support and help to understand her and help her, because i felt inadequate and out of my depth and it didn’t seem right to battle on alone when perhaps someone who have a magic fix. We hadn’t even decided to HE really at this point, although it was a thought whispering around our heads and Fran was in playgroup, Maddy had been in nursery – i was happy to be offered any support, including a nursery. We were not a way out family by any stretch of the imagination. But i had, it is true, had some bouts of depression, something i have struggled with on and off all my life and which the difficulties of Fran’s early life had definitely aggravated. Knowing myself i had always sort help for this, had light but effective medication and had remained at all times a person who functioned as i needed to.
The doctor sent round a health visitor, who came 3 times and seemed to be asking evaluation questions. It wasn’t particularly helpful but she had some ideas and thoughts and she was nice enough to chat to. On the third visit she told me she had been assessing me for MÃ¼nchhausen’s By Proxy but it was fine, i didn’t have it. I was flabbergasted – but not nearly as scared as i should have been. It makes my blood run cold and perhaps it isn’t sensible even to mention it. But i hope if this blog is a record of anything, it is that we care deeply about our children here and their welfare and well being is paramount. We are not perfect, but they are the very centre of our lives. And if i could have this levelled at me, then so could any other perfectly ordinary mum.
I got investigated for being mentally ill with a desire to get attention by harming or inventing illnesses for my child BECAUSE i fulfilled my duty as a parent and sort medical help for one of them when i feared there was something wrong that i could not deal with alone. And i was right, because she was subsequently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome by 10 professionals who took the time to get to know her and me. She needed some help and i went looking for it and accessed it. She needed personal, specialist attention and i knew i needed to make sure she got it. So i asked. And i could have lost everything by doing so.
And if that can happen to me over a health issue (which proves to be valid), what on earth is going to happen to home educators if anyone at all decides “there is no smoke without fire” over this little gem. That Mr Badman dared to ask if mothers who home educate are suffering from MBP. I mean, imagine – you decide that you want to give your child the personal, uniquely tailored education you feel they need, exercising your legal right and duty to do so and someone levels the possibility that you might only do so because you are mentally ill and intent on harming your child.
When i read that, i cried. Because these people are conducting a smear campaign and we have nothing but right and truth on our side and that is not going to save us from the people determined to smear us with shit. What else is there to do but cry? No one is going to listen to us while we cry foul.