Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Maternal Care or Harm?

The LA Times story ran a disturbing article about the Udvardi family, Maternal care--or harm? Unfortunately, I am all too familiar with doctors who were unable to recognize rare genetic conditions and diagnosed mental illness instead. In this case, they accused Leslie Udvardi of "Munchausen syndrome by proxy, fabricating or inducing illnesses in her own children."

It is a harrowing story. Child protective services took her away from her children. Even though all four of her children were eventually diagnosed with an extremely rare genetic condition that caused all the seemingly random and unrelated symptoms for which she sought help, the whiff of guilt still hangs over her.
No one even told them when the criminal investigation was dropped. And no apology came from the doctors and social workers, Leslie said.

The only acknowledgment from the hospital came from its attorney, in response to a packet of documents Leslie sent as part of a written complaint. At the end of a three-page letter defending the hospital on every point in dense legal prose, E. Nathan Schilt wrote: "I am deeply sorry for the ordeal you and your family have undergone."
Why would a mother do the things she was accused of?

The childrens' school nurse told detectives that she suspected the mother of four and former high school math teacher of trying "to get attention and to be able to continue to stay home and not work."

Since when is taking care of 4 seriously ill children not work?

I have been home the past two days taking care of Iris while she recovers from a cold. Mark is on travel so I have to handle it alone. It is way harder than my market (paid) job. I am exhausted. In fact, I worry that I have caught it also.

In some ways, she was easier to handle earlier in her illness. She read the entire A Series of Unfortunate Events, all 13 volumes. I actually got work done yesterday.

Now that she is on the mend, she is bouncing off the walls. She is so creatively destructive. See the kilt pin in her hand (that I use to close shawls and sweaters)? Note also the uncapped and nearly empty bottle of jojoba oil in the background. The significance dawned on me later.

She found the pin while rummaging through my jewelry tray. What a big pin! How sharp! Let's look for something big and plump to deflate.

Did she go for the cheap Costco knockoff? No. She had to go for the biggest and most expensive exercise ball.

The remains of the (physical therapist recommended) Swiss Ball.

The bottle of jojoba oil? She slathered it all over herself and then rubbed herself all over the furniture and rolled across the carpets.

Serenity now. Think about how nice the bathroom looked in The Bubble Bath post. Look at the ranunculus that popped up in the backyard.

Mark gets home tomorrow. Let's hope I don't pull a Medea before then.

In another motherhood gets no respect rant, read this profile of Mike Rowe, host of the TV show, "Dirty Jobs".
It's a dirty job, but Mike Rowe wants to do it.

Rowe, host of the Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" show, tags along with workers in the grittiest of trades, from sewer inspector to lobsterman, trying them out on camera. In an age when for many, "labor" means staring at a computer in a cubicle, Rowe's job is to spotlight work that is grueling, often dangerous and always dirty.

The onetime wannabe actor has showcased more than 160 people who work with their hands and become one of Discovery's biggest stars. Rowe sees himself as an advocate for a kind of job and class of worker that usually elicit more disgust than respect.
I just want to know when he is going to shadow a mother.

Read my out of office message.


  1. Anonymous09:13

    Oh, that day when the kid is all better and you are exhausted, probably coming down with whatever it was, and still home with them instead of peacefully slurping tea in your cube.

    You have all my sympathy.

  2. That is horrible, I can only imagine what she went through with just trying to be the best mom she could. I agree! Being a mom is harder than any job I have ever had in my life... from separation anxiety, to drawing on walls, to playing with or eating things they shouldn't, and of course seeking out anything that looks important to mom. I am so sorry about your stuff, that is when things get harder trying to stay cool and calm. My oldest took red nail polish and colored on our big screen tv before we got the protector, so to say the least it is ruined.

  3. Anonymous14:39

    p.s. - I had to go look this up, but Munchausen's by Proxy is what Fran Lyon was predicted to suffer from when UK social services planned to take her newborn.

    I wonder how widely used it is.

  4. Anonymous12:34

    What a terrible story! I used to think that education would defeat Philistinism but the ever increasing store of knowledge grows, many individuals seem to become more and more narrow in their focus. It is such a terrible thing, and as the population grows into hundreds of millions and billions, the odds of encountering even the "rare" becomes far more likely.

  5. Rosa brings up a good point; she frequently brings up good points.

    You can read about Fran Lyon's case here:

    She has fled her home in the Northumberland County Council, hoping for more reasonable treatment in another County.


    Oddly, Munchausen's is a relatively new 'disease', first coined in the 1970s. It is not even clear that it is a real disease. But it has been an useful tool to harass and prosecute mothers.


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