In the previous blog in this three-part series, I spoke about a personal encounter with a family perpetrator of MSbP, and the roles she gave herself in the process. Here, I’ll describe how the falsehoods and truths combined to lead me to believe my paternal grandmother had MSbP.
Filling in Blanks
As I continue my questions and investigations into my father’s family, something becomes quite clear.
My paternal grandmother habitually lied about the illnesses of those in her home, her role in curing them, and the effects of them on the alleged patient. Of her eleven children born alive, four died by age four, with nine causes of death listed for those four children (two male, two female). Apparently we can pick which we want to believe: family Bible, county record, or my paternal grandmother.
If we label her eleven children A through L (excluding I for obvious reasons), we find that she had children A through D, then children E and F both died, the latter while she was possibly pregnant with yet another child. There is no agreement among surviving children on that last point, though two recall later hearing of a miscarriage (or more than one).
Children G, H and J were born after the family moved to another part of the state. Children K and L, born in the late 1950s, were both dead of varying causes before 1962, neither having seen their fifth birthday. County records indicate “crib death” and “fever”, whereas family story indicates pneumonia or measles for the “crib death” of K, and L passing of croup or measles or (as I recently discovered) the family Bible’s listed reason of “scarlet fever“.
For four children to have nine attested causes of death is, to say the least, rather odd.
And the Disease Is…?
Given that scarlet fever did not affect any other child in that crowded household, and that it was a recognizable cause of death, it’s a little peculiar that the coroner went with general “fever”, but my grandmother specified in the Bible “scarlet fever”. Some who lived with my grandparents during those years are no longer among the living, but the others remember “a lot of crying”. Thus far, no one else in the family is known to have measles or scarlet fever during that time period.
Having been exposed to both measles and scarlet fever in my own childhood, I have some personal experience with the quarantine procedures required. When my older sibling had measles, despite her vaccination, I was removed from her presence, to be safe. When I was exposed to scarlet fever at school, I had to stay home for ten days, and only my mother came into my room. My father and his siblings slept up to four in a bed, with one bed for male children and one for female children. The risk of infection would be quite high in those circumstances. Compare that to one child coming into a classroom at my school, and scarlet fever striking twelve others, in far less crowded conditions, as occurred in my childhood.
So what exactly did happen? What dynamic controlled my paternal grandmother and her children?
After sharing information with members of an online support group, and being brought into the Proxy Project, I finally had a name to give the thing that appears to have shaped the pathological mess known as my father’s family.
Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.
To learn more about the poisons used in MSbP, read Monika’s blog series.
Images courtesy author; erikawittlieb via pixabay; and zsu250 via pixabay.