Wonderfully Made: Ruthie's Story
By Andrea Edmonds
“Congratulations!” I stood in our foyer with tears streaming down my face as I thought about what Leigh Pate had just said. Although I had been encouraged by many people, it was the first time I had been congratulated on the birth of our precious, Ruthie, who was a week old and had been diagnosed with Down syndrome. Though our family and friends immediately loved Ruthie, we were all struggling to find the right words. I knew what the struggle was: “What do you say to someone who has just had a baby with special needs?” I wasn't even quite sure, and I was Ruthie's mother. Leigh Pate, who worked at RISE as the Service Coordinator, embodied the spirit of RISE, and on that August day in 2007, her “Congratulations” renewed my spirit. The way she conveyed congratulations held no sympathy, only genuine excitement for a family that she knew would be blessed by a delightful little girl.
It had been a difficult week. School had just started for Quinn, who was in fifth grade, and Helen Claire, who was in first grade. On August 9, 2007, I tucked them into bed, and twenty minutes later Steve and I left for the hospital. I was not prepared to have a baby at 34 weeks. We were told at 20 weeks that Ruthie had a soft marker for Down syndrome, but because many typically-developing babies share this same marker, we decided not to pursue further testing. We knew that even if our baby had Down syndrome, it would not change the course of the pregnancy. Although I didn't dwell on this soft marker, it was in the back of my mind. As the NICU team hurried in, I looked to my right as the nurse practitioner evaluated our beautiful blonde-headed baby girl; and in that moment, I knew that Ruthie had Down syndrome. I was shaking so much that I could hardly hold her. My mind went immediately to 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18, “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” Many times I have described this moment as a time where I felt emotionally cut in half. Part of me was in perfect peace as I realized that even in the midst of unexpected circumstances, my joy and peace came from Christ alone. I knew that I could choose to be thankful, even though our baby had Down syndrome.
The other half of me was a complete mess. I was grieving for the baby girl I thought we were going to have. What was I going to do? How would we tell our parents and our families? How could we possibly tell Quinn and Helen Claire that the baby sister they had eagerly awaited had Down syndrome? Should we even tell them that? Is it appropriate? How do we let our friends know? It was too much. I was worried about our children and our family. I wanted to hold it all together. I decided to stay as strong as I could on the outside so that our children could experience the joy of a new sister without worrying about Down syndrome. However, on the inside, I was struggling. I thought about Psalm 139:14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Still shaking as I held Ruthie, I looked at her perfect little almond-shaped eyes and prayed that she would grow up knowing that like her brother and sister, she too is wonderfully made. My limited understanding of perfection began to change, and I thought about James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above,” and also, Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” I said a prayer using those verses not just for Ruthie but for myself as well: “Ruthie, I praise God because you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are a good and perfect gift from above, and before God formed you in my womb, He knew exactly who you would be.” I was struggling emotionally, but I was sure about two things: I loved my daughter, and I knew without a doubt that she was our wonderfully-made gift.
Ruthie turned ten years old in August, and she has brought our family so much joy. We have learned to let go of our own plans for Ruthie and to embrace God’s perfect plan for her life. What an incredible life it is! She is a smart, happy, and a very-loved typical fourth grader. We have tried to parent her with the same high expectations and opportunities as her brother and sister have had. Down syndrome does not define Ruthie.
As Ruthie has gotten older, finding the right clothing has become a challenge. Jami Britton at Lili Pads Boutique knew what styles would work for Ruthie, and she would let me know when new outfits were in. I was so grateful. Eventually, she completely sized out of our favorite lines at a very early age. One day I was talking with Jami about our clothing challenge, and she asked me if I had thought about starting a clothing line for girls in plus sizing. The neat thing was that I had actually been praying about it, but the idea was overwhelming. I can confidently tell you that God placed a talented team of people in my path who helped me solve a problem not just for Ruthie but for other girls as well, which is how Wonderfully Made Clothing Co. began.
Wonderfully Made Clothing Co. offers clothing for girls in sizes 8 to 16 plus. We do not use the term, plus, on any of our labels, and I only use it when I have to clarify the difference in our sizing. In fact, our size label is not visible; it is attached on the lower part of the garment. We are all shaped differently but we are all “wonderfully made.” There is a void in the market for boutique clothing in our “wonderfully-made” sizing. Our team designs the clothing, creates the patterns and provides our girls with a beautiful fit. Our clothing is designed and created with the same attention to detail and quality that is easily accessible in other sizing. We select quality fabrics that are comfortable and flattering. I especially love our knits because they are soft and hold their shape after many washings. Each piece in our collection has been worn and approved by Ruthie. I know if she loves it, then I can confidently offer it to other girls.
I even struggled to find jewelry that would fit comfortably around Ruthie's neck. I knew that other girls shared this problem as well. Sara Hart, owner of Groundworks by Sara Hart, solved this problem by designing a line of jewelry that will accommodate most sizes. Like our clothing team, Sara believed in our “wonderfully-made” mission by helping me provide our girls with clothing and jewelry that has been challenging to find.
Ten years ago my world became richer and more authentic because of Ruthie. What this world views as perfect is not God's standard of perfection. What is perfect? Perfect is a little girl who might not have learned to walk as soon as her brother and sister did, but she walked and now is an incredible swimmer. Perfect is a little girl who had to use signs to communicate before she could talk but now has an unbelievable vocabulary. Perfect is all of our girls regardless of size, but it is up to us to reflect which image of perfection they see. We are all wonderfully made!