Just weeks into 1974 Angela became a big sister, but little brother Matthew didn't get to come home from the hospital for two months. He was born 2-1/2 months early and at just 3 lbs he had to be on oxygen, have a chest tube and be fed with a tube. When he finally was allowed to come home Angela's doll's infant seat was what I used for him. He slept in a laundry basket I'd painted blue. When he finally did sleep in the crib, it looked vast with his tiny little body.
Angel loved her little brother and was always wanting to play with him and hold him. I don't recall her being jealous of him and this might have partly been because she was doted on and entertained by the neighbor's family. That first summer of 1974 she and the many cousins and the neighbor kids played costume dress up all summer long. They would put on make-up and costumes and giggle. Yes, I had boxes and boxes of costumes. Even the neighbor's preteen daughter and her own friend joined in and dressed up too. They all loved having baby Matthew near by. It was a recession and we had so little, but this time was so precious. Matt's survival (and mine - needing 5 pints of blood after hemorrhaging) were just a couple of the many miraculous things during 1974.
I took a job at the end of that summer as staff for a residential facility for six severely, profoundly retarded children. Yes, I felt some payback was in order and I was at ease with childcare for my kids. We were very hard up and this job was a necessity. For me it was a move away from food service and it opened up a new world for me too. After just a few months the couple who were the houseparents moved away suddenly and I was promoted to their position. I had to sleep at the facility on a rotating basis with the rest of my staff. I was able to bring my children to the facility. Some of the clients really loved this, others seemed unaware and Angela was like a sponge taking in everything the children and staff said and did. That was exposure I have never regretted for either child or myself - or for the young staff. It was good for us to interact with the children together - whether developmentally delayed or not.