Chapter Nine: What if my Baby is a Squib?
Every expectant mother hopes for a healthy baby. She looks forward with a tender eagerness to the moment when she will hold her little one in her arms for the first time, and the joy of that glorious responsibility she and father will bear in guiding a little witch or wizard on its first steps through a magical world. Yet even at this time when surely nothing is more natural than to look forward to this marvellous adventure, the sad truth should be recognized that for some witches, it is an adventure that will never be. You may ask why you should contemplate disaster before it arrives. Perhaps you think there is no need to consider the prospect of a grief that will most likely not befall you. Nonetheless, just as we inoculate babies against diseases to which they may never be exposed, so should you ask yourself in advance what you will do should your baby be a Squib. This is a sombre undertaking, but how much harder for the witch who has never contemplated it to have to make difficult decisions in the first agonies of her grief? Whether your baby is not yet here, or you are even now facing this most difficult of times, this chapter seeks to answer some of the most common questions facing the parents of a Squib. You may also wish to seek advice from the various agencies listed in the Appendix, which provide services to help parents in this situation.
Is it my fault my baby is a Squib?
No. It is not your fault, and you must put the thought out of your mind. The birth of a defective child is always a matter of great sadness, and it is only natural to wonder if you might have done anything to prevent it, but you must not reproach yourself. You have not caused this fault in your child by drinking farpleweed for morning sickness, by apparating soon after conception, or through excessive exposure to Electricity. One day Natural Philosophers may be able to identify witches at risk of giving birth to Squibs, but the main concern for a new mother should be to ensure an appropriate solution for her family. This begins with proper diagnosis.
Diagnosis of the Squib child
We are fortunate that diagnosis of Squibs is now easily achieved in infancy. It is true that in very rare cases an ordinarily magical child may suffer accident or illness that appears to damage its magical abilities, but these children are the exception. Almost all Squibs are now diagnosed soon after birth by means of the Kransfeldt-Hammelkraft method. This test, developed in 1942, is much more reliable than earlier methods; indeed no case of incorrect diagnosis is known where the test has been performed within six weeks of birth.
The new baby should be tested as early as possible. If you wish to take advantage of the service offered by St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, you need simply inform your midwife and she will arrange for it to be performed either shortly after birth, if your confinement takes place in a New Mother’s Home, or in your own home a few days after birth. Alternatively, many families prefer to make private arrangements with one of the many qualified midwives and Healers who perform this service, or to perform the simple procedure themselves. These methods provide the advantage of privacy should the worst befall, whilst you decide on the best solution.
A warning! The Kransfeldt-Hammelkraft test does not indicate the degree of magical talent. Early tests of magic rarely give an accurate picture of the degree of magical ability possessed by a child. Some very young children may have a level of magical function so limited as to lead to confusion in the popular mind with the Squib state, yet will later undertake magical education with great success. Equally a child may appear to perform spontaneous magic that has in fact arisen from another source. It is for this reason that proper diagnosis by means of the Kransfeldt-Hammelkraft test is so important. Although some parents may elect not to have their children tested, the author cannot recommend this choice.
The Squib child should be registered with the Ministry of Magic in the normal way, on its third birthday.
Care of the Squib Child: immediate needs
The immediate care of the Squib baby of 0 – 3 months is little different from that of the healthy infant. Feeding, sleeping, and training may all proceed as usual, as long as a few simple precautions are taken. A number of helpful guides to Squib care are available, and you will be wise to avail yourself of their aid (see Appendix for a list of discreet suppliers).
Two rules should never be forgotten:
- Inoculation. It is not recommended that Squibs receive the usual doses of inoculum potion, and you should therefore be especially careful of possible infection (see Squib Associated Syndrome).
- Apparation. Squibs cannot apparate! Who has not heard the sad reports of infants whose parents have forgot this rule, and who have thereby been dropped and injured or killed? A Squib child may travel by Floo if held securely in the arms.
Care of the Squib Child: the long term
It is easy to deceive yourself when your baby is newborn that there is no difference between it and the magical children in the family. When your pretty little son or daughter seems perfect in every other way, it may be hard to accept that it is so cruelly lacking. Despite yourself you may very soon find yourself becoming attached to the child; therefore it is all the more important to address as early as possible the question as to how it is to be raised to prevent heartbreak later on. This section suggests some common solutions.
The age-old practice of abandoning Squibs provides a simple way for the grieving family to deal with the issue simply and quickly, with the utmost privacy. The child should be left well-fed and warmly wrapped in a place where it will soon be discovered, preferably off the ground and not in an area known to be frequented by large animals. Remember that Squibs are physically vulnerable and may suffer death due to exposure where a magical child would not. There is no need to inform the Ministry if a child is abandoned before the age of registration (on its third birthday), but it is not legal to abandon a child after this age due to the risk of an older child inadvertently breaking the Statue of Secrecy. Children discovered alive in magical areas or Muggle areas will be treated as foundlings by the relevant authorities.
Muggle adoption – where ignorance is bliss
This choice is increasingly popular. If you wish to make a Squib child available for Muggle adoption, you should contact the Ministry of Magic, who will make the necessary arrangements. Do not feel embarrassed! The Ministry officials working in this area are very experienced and you are assured of secrecy if you prefer. The benefits of Muggle adoption are plain: the family knows that the child will be well cared for without need for their further involvement and raised unaware of its inferiority. The Ministry keeps an anonymised register of Muggle adoptions that may be consulted by witches or wizards contemplating marrying a Muggle to reduce the risk of Squibs breeding back into the magical population. There is no risk of the child being able to trace you if you do not wish it; all Muggles involved in the process are subjected to Memory Charms as necessary.
A Ministry Institution
Many witches who feel they cannot take the responsibility of raising a Squib child themselves nonetheless wish the child to retain a family and cultural link. In these cases, a residential Ministry Institution may be the ideal solution. Institutions take children from birth to the age of eighteen, providing a secure and loving environment where skilled carers provide specialist nurture and education to fit Squibs for a productive life in the magical world suitable to their talents. Many Squibs hold responsible positions in fields such as Muggle Records or building maintenance, and achieve great satisfaction through the knowledge that they are making an essential contribution to our society.
Care at Home
Of course you may decide to raise your Squib child in your own home. If you want to do this, it is important that you consider very carefully the practical arrangements that you will have to make. Many families find that the burden becomes increasingly onerous as the child grows and if it then becomes necessary to place it in a suitable institution, this can cause greater pain than if the realities of the situation had been accepted from the start. In cases where a witch has a Muggle husband, the man feel strongly that the child should be raised at home, and indeed the house may already include suitable adaptations. However you must consider your own feelings. You chose your husband as an adult man capable – in his own world – of taking care of himself. In contrast, your little child will be utterly dependent on you. It may be a pretty baby, but will you be able to give the same loving care, as its defects become more obvious, that you give to its magical brothers and sisters? Where there is no Muggle living in the house, care of the older Squib child becomes more difficult. You will always have to remember that your child is vulnerable to hazards that normal children do not face. It may burn to death because it falls through a magical fireguard, or suffer a potentially fatal injury on which emergency remedies have no effect. Many parents who choose to raise a Squib at home find the task increasingly difficult as the child grows, and either place it in a Ministry Institution of choose a suitable residential Muggle school where it can be educated.
Will my Squib child suffer other problems?
The condition of the Squib is most usually associated with its most obvious manifestation: the lack of magical ability. However, Squib children frequently suffer from other health problems termed Squib Associated Syndrome. Many young Squibs suffer digestive difficulties, weak hearts, and other physical frailties. Inoculum potion is not recommended due to fears of overloading the already weak frame. It is not unusual for a Squib child not reared in a specialist institution to die at a very young age despite the best parental care. The most dangerous ages are from birth to three months, and between 30 and 36 months, causing even greater heartache for parents who had been anticipating celebrating the registration of the child with the Ministry on its third birthday. If the child dies before this age, a death certificate is not required, although many parents will choose to make an announcement in the newspaper to avoid those kindly-meant enquiries that can only bring pain.
Will my next child be a Squib?
There is no evidence that Squibs run in families. Your next child will almost certainly be healthy. Many midwives and Healers advise that the best way for a witch to overcome her natural sorrow on the birth of a Squib is to have another child.