Mona is a veteran writer, educator, and coach. She is presently affiliated with Enrich Magazine and Pressenza
Munchausen by Proxy
“The purpose (of the Munchausan mom) is not to kill the child but to keep them sick so that the mother can be in a relationship with the doctor, who would recognize her devotion, knowledge, and sacrifice.” ~ Dr. Herbert Schreier, Psychiatrist, Children’s Hospital Oakland
Munchausen by Proxy is not a widely known mental disorder, despite sensational cases of Munchausen moms such as Lacey Spears, Dee Dee Blanchard, and Sandy Gregory - Parocai.
Dee Dee Blanchard was afflicted with Munchausen by Proxy. This mental illness causes a mother to deliberately make her child sick many times so that she can get attention and validation from doctors, nurses, and hospital personnel.
Munchausen moms also lavish in concern and admiration from online strangers and communities on social media. They avail of many freebies for their “sick” child.
Gypsy in hospital
What Dee Dee Blanchard did to her daughter, Gypsy
Gypsy Rose Blanchard, born on July 27, 1991, was three months old when her mother, Dee Dee, brought her to the hospital, insisting that her baby couldn’t sleep due to sleep apnea. The infant Gypsy was put on oxygen every night until she turned 23, for sleep apnea that she didn't have.
When Gypsy was eight years old, Dee Dee told doctors Gypsy wasn’t eating and needed a feeding tube. The tube was attached to Gypsy’s stomach, even if she didn’t need it. Dee Dee also said Gypsy had muscular dystrophy and made Gypsy use a wheelchair. But Gypsy didn’t need the wheelchair.
In 2001, Gypsy became the honorary queen of the Krewe of Mid-City parade in New Orleans. They believed she was eight years old, but she was really 10 years old.
Gypsy used her wheelchair until she was 23 years old when her mother was murdered. Gypsy didn’t know her real age because her mother kept her “young” to get more sympathy. She thought she was 17, but she was actually 25 years old.
Dee Dee brought Gypsy to different doctors from different towns and hospitals to accumulate different prescribed medicines, which she used so Gypsy would have symptoms of seizures, sight and hearing difficulties, and asthma. She shaved all Gypsy’s hair, claiming Gypsy had leukemia. Dee Dee’s nurse training helped instigate Gypsy’s symptoms.
Munchausen moms will manipulate tests (by placing blood in a urine sample), falsify medical records, poison their children, inject them with feces, and starve them.
Munchausen syndrome by proxy was first written about in 1951. Social media has given a new dimension for Munchausen moms for emotional support and oftentimes, financial aid.
Strangers follow Munchausen moms on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and keep updated through their blogs, vlogs, and/or podcasts.
Today, Gypsy Blanchard is serving a 10-year prison sentence at Missouri’s Chillicothe Correctional Center home, as an accessory for murder. She is eligible for parole by 2024 when she’ll be 32 years old.
Godejohn has a life imprisonment conviction for first-degree murder and an additional 25 years sentence for armed criminal action.
The online connection
These are some benefits that Gypsy got from her online presence:
- In 2005, Gypsy talked at a New Orleans university about the need to love and help each other. In 2007, Gypsy was given a home to live in for free for one year. She also won the 2007 Child of the Year award from the Oley Foundation, who believed she was 12 years old, but she was actually 15.
- Oley, a non-profit, was formed to enrich the lives of patients undergoing home intravenous nutrition and tube feeding and doing so positively, to encourage others. Gypsy never needed the feeding tube, which was inserted when she was eight years old.
- Gypsy and her mom were also awarded a home from Habitat for Humanity, which they moved into in 2008. The home had special features for people in wheelchairs.
- When Dee Dee said Gypsy had cancer, thousands of dollars were donated from online strangers, and the Make a Wish Foundation gave Gypsy and Dee Dee a free trip to Disney World. As Gypsy grew older, Dee Dee changed her birthdate to make her younger, knowing this would make her more sympathetic online.
In June 2015 Dee Dee Blanchard was stabbed to death by Gypsy’s online boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn. With her mother’s death, Gypsy was free of her wheelchair, and knew her true age.
Online donations continued to come in, forcing the Greene County sheriff to publicly announce that people should stop donating any money to the Blanchard family.
Gypsy Rose Blanchard had five Facebook accounts, and possibly more. One was used by Gypsy to plan her mother’s death with Godejohn.
Godejohn recalled these Facebook accounts: Nicholas Bella Rose, Snowgypsy Blanchard, Gypsy's Trip, Praying for DeeDee and Gypsy, Bella Rose, Gypsy Rose, and Devona Wolf, where Gypsy "liked" sadomasochistic pictures.
Gypsy in jail
Who was Dee Dee Blanchard
Gypsy’s stepmother, Kristy Blanchard, said she and her husband didn’t know about the child abuse, and they thought Dee Dee was a great mom. But in hindsight, Kristy said Dee Dee’s own mom also may have been a munchausen mom, recalling a photo she saw of Dee Dee and her mother in a hospital. Also, Dee Dee's biological mother was a shoplifter who was sent to court for petty crimes.
Dee Dee’s nephew, Bobby Pitre, said Dee Dee was suffocating, powerful, evil, and manipulative. He said Dee Dee poisoned her mother, Emma Pitre, with plant poison in her food. Although Emma Pitre was overbearing and controlling, she didn’t deserve to die after a long illness, where she was bedridden, starved, and unclean.
Dee Dee and Gypsy then lived with Dee Dee’s father and his wife, Laura Pitre. Dee Dee did all the cooking. Shortly after, her stepmother fell ill. There was suspicion about her sickness and at a family gathering Laura Pitre complained about the way Dee Dee had been treating her. Dee Dee was kicked out. After Dee Dee and Gypsy left, Laura recovered.
Dee Dee also wrote bad checks, committed credit card fraud, and shoplifted. Bobby Pietre, the nephew, said Dee Dee opened up credit cards in the names of her father and her brother, resulting in a plethora of bills.
When Dee Dee Blanchard died, none of her relatives wanted her body.
Dee Dee Blanchard with daughter Gypsy
What causes a person to become a Munchausen mom?
Munchausen moms aren’t motivated by money, they want attention. They also want admiration and sympathy from doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.
No single reason is known that causes Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. But studies suggest that there may be one or more underlying causes, which may be biological or mental, or a result of abusive childhood experiences.
Some possibilities are:
- Genetic or biological issues. Brain structure abnormalities have been seen through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of some Munchausen moms.
- Childhood abuse. Munchausen by proxy is medical child abuse, but there are also other forms of child abuse that a Munchausen mom may have experienced such as mental injury, among others.
- A very low feeling of self-worth or an inflated sense of importance. These delusions may trigger Munchausen by proxy.
- Relationships trauma. Difficult relationships with parents when they were children may result in anxiety, depression, and/or other mental disorders that may trigger Munchausen by Proxy.
Dr. Marc D. Feldman, author, Playing Sick? Untangling the Web of Munchausen Syndrome, Munchausen by Proxy, Malingering, and Factitious Disorder is not convinced that Munchausen by proxy is a mental disorder.
"Perpetrators have borderline personality disorders and maladaptive ways of handling stress. They have a hazy sense of identity, and compensate by creating the persona of mother of the year," he said.
Feldman adds that social media is an enticing new path to sympathy for Munchausen mothers, which he calls “Munchausen Proxy by the Internet.”
Feldman said that Dee Dee Blanchard had two simultaneous disorders -- Munchausen by Proxy disorder, which comes with an inherent need for attention, and Malingering by Proxy disorder, which involves monetary gain. Dee Dee was getting government disability payments for some of Gypsy Rose’s “illnesses”.
Gypsy in court
How to spot a Munchausen mom
Munchausen moms often work as babysitters, caregivers, or in the medical profession. One Munchausen mom, Lacey Spears, was a babysitter, and throughout the year she cared for a toddler, who had severe ear infections. After Lacey was let go, the ear infections ended. A Munchausen mom will begin abusing their child from birth.
Some common traits of Munchausen moms are:
- They are often women aged 20 to 40.
- They work with children or are caregivers.
- They always seem concerned about their child’s health.
- They have low self-esteem.
- They have self-identity issues.
- They are welcoming and agreeable with healthcare providers.
- They might be working in healthcare.
- They love getting attention from people working in healthcare.
- They have an absorbing interest and knowledge about medical issues.
- They feel at home in a hospital environment.
- They themselves may have Munchausen syndrome.
- If a doctor tells them that nothing is wrong with their child, they become angry.
Updates and links
Gypsy Rose said living in prison is better than living with her mother.
Gypsy Rose Blanchard will have her parole hearing in 2023 and might be paroled by December 2023.
She's working on a book.
For more info on Gypsy Rose, go to the following: