Michigan family: Down syndrome diagnosis shaped our family for the better

Michigan family: Down syndrome diagnosis shaped our family for the betterThe Potter family (Colette Potter)

Renee Potter, 22, grew up outside Grand Rapids, Mich., with her older brother Billy and younger sister, Nikky. Their parents, Dave and Colette, raised the three siblings the same, with long road trips, family movie nights, Bible school, and a variety of sports. 

 Potter kids

However, Renee is not the same.

“She doesn’t know a stranger,” said Billy. “She never goes to sleep angry and never ways up mad. Her true joy is unmatched.” 

Renee, now a beautiful young woman, was diagnosed with Down syndrome when she was born.

“It was unexpected,” said Colette. “It changes the plans you have – the future you thought.” 

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Estimates vary, but are as high as 60-90 percent of mothers in the U.S. who found out their child had Down syndrome in prenatal testing chose to abort. This is no accident. 

Big Abortion pushes for children with any anomaly to be aborted even if the abnormality is not fatal to the child or the mother. 

Renee Potter

One England mother said she was asked to terminate her son with Down syndrome 15 times. 

The Potters opted to forgo the prenatal testing performed to reveal such diagnoses. 

“We didn’t get an amniocentesis during pregnancy because it wouldn’t have changed anything for us,” said Colette. 

When Renee was born, Dave and Colette decided they were going to raise Renee with the same methods and opportunities as Billy and Nikky. Although the milestones for each kid were different, the Potters’ approach to raising Renee has proven beneficial not only to Renee but to the entire family. 

“Growing up with Renee has taught us patience and forgiveness,” said Billy. “She exemplifies these things and brings them out of each of us.” 

“She doesn’t care if you are homeless or the most powerful person in the world,” said Billy. “To her, you are just a friend.” 

He told the story of Renee going to prom.  

   Renee Potter ready for prom

At the time, Renee was a big fan of the TV show, The Office, and she wanted to take the show’s star Steve Carell as her date to the prom. So, they printed a picture of Carrel for pictures, and then Renee folded him up and took him to prom.  

Interestingly, Collette went on a work trip to New York, where she was with a coworker who happened to be Steve Carell’s brother-in-law.

When he heard about Renee and her date idea, he reached out to his sister, Carell’s wife Nancy Carell, who sent Renee a video of Steve Carell saying, “Hi, Renee! I heard we went to prom together.” 

The family was excited for Renee to receive the video, but Renee decided she would still rather have the poster. 

“She has brought the family closer together,” said Colette. “She is like the glue between Billy and Nikky.” 

Colette is now writing a book about their family’s journey with a Down syndrome diagnosis. She wants to help the parent who may have just found out their child has Down syndrome. 

  Renee Potter

“God has given me the gift of writing and storytelling,” said Colette. “When you read books about Down syndrome, they are so discouraging. I can shed some light on that and come at it from a different perspective.” 

She hopes to show what joy and love a child with Down syndrome can bring. 

“At our house, we call them ‘Reneeism,’” said Colette. “They are the little unexpected things that Renee does or says that bring so much joy and laughter.” Times when Renee was simply being Renee.

Colette wants to show parents that abortion due to Down syndrome is unnecessary and an incredible loss for the world.

“God creates perfect beings,” Collet said. "We may not all look perfect, but in His eyes, we are.”

“If God put this extra chromosome in all of us, the world would be a better place,” she added. “Renee - and people with Down syndrome - are not broken. They are here to fix us - to teach us.”

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