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A Mother’s Cry
ISBN: 1-4208-9671-7
By: Kerri Busteed

Review by: Annie Lee Jones


It takes considerable literary talent to capture the essence of Munchausen’s by Proxy Syndrome in a novel. Kerri J. Busteed, in her first novel, A Mother’s Cry, succeeds masterfully. A small text packed with intensity and intrigue, A Mother’s Cry initially appears to the reader as a text written for a young audience about the life of a beautiful young rich girl, Rachel, whose parent’s careers interferes with her wish to have them all to herself. The details of the car accident that lands the central character Rachel in the hospital prompts the reader to wonder about child supervision, and other parenting concerns, especially as Rachel’s internal longings are stymied by the realities of her life at home.

The text moves the reader swiftly to Rachel’s life as a young woman, quickly married, surrounded by success and eager for a daughter of her own. It is at this point in the text that the reader becomes very aware of the skill acquired as a child at the mercy of her environment and parents, is now used to try to create an environment as she wishes-where she is perfectly in control, and all her fantasies of being beloved can be attained.

Nature’s hand in Rachel’s life drama becomes the catalyst for the impending series of events that proves near fatal for Rachel’s first born-a boy.

There are many psychological theories about the internal state of a mother who puts her own child in harms way or who creates life threatening medical conditions in her child in order to obtain attention from nurses, doctors, and those around her. Basically, it is assumed that in Munchausen’s by Proxy Syndrome, the parent’s or caregiver’s internal psychic conflicts, or psychiatric conditions such as severe anxiety and depression interferes with her ability to see her child as a unique individual. In some cases, the child becomes a featureless object, requiring all, giving little, and therefore increasingly burdensome.

Only in situations where the mother can see others attention of her through the child does she see the child’s value. Here lies the danger for the child. The attention the sick child gets in each and every emergency escalates the attention seeking behavior of the mother. Perfect mothering occurs at its best under the watchful eyes of the emergency room staff and physicians. Whatever reasons leading the mother to attach her object relatedness to pain and injury in her child can ultimately prove fatal if not discovered in time.

In outlining a psychoanalytic interpretation of the function of the mother as protective shield, M. Masud R. Khan, in his chapter “The concept of cumulative trauma,” states that “cumulative trauma is the result of the breaches in the mother’s role as a protective shield over the whole course of the child’s dev elopement, from infancy to adolescence-that is to say, in all those areas of experience where the child continues to need the mother as an auxiliary ego to support his immature and unstable ego-functions” (Khan 122).

The author’s use of narrative perspective vividly portrays the role of a child’s perspective on her own childhood needs on decisions and relationships later in life. More importantly, Busteed’s use of the novel as form allows the reader to grasp the seriousness of the illness-- Munchausen by Proxy, without fear of imagining the terrible consequences of failure to rescue the child.

Kerri J. Busteed has written a wonderful work of fiction that is useful in many areas outside of literature, particularly, in psychoanalysis, nursing, and pediatrics.

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