Prominent defense attorney shares struggle with infertility
Defense attorney Sara Jones, 33, of Lake Wales is known in the Polk County Jail as “Go Home Jones’’ for her ability to help clients get felony charges dismissed or what she calls “great plea deals.”
Out of the few that went to trial, she said she had “only one loss.” But while she may be winning in the courtroom, she’s fought quite the battle at home against an issue many Black women don’t talk about openly: infertility.
“Infertility is stigmatized, and a lot of women feel alone. I know that it’s common, and I wanted to show other women that women just like them, and even women they admire, experience infertility. I also want people to see that you can overcome infertility (and talk about it before you overcome,” said Sara Jones.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States, about 19% of heterosexual women between ages 15 to 49 years are unable to get pregnant with their first child after one year of trying. Jones decided to open up about her experience in January, telling followers in a Facebook live session about the hardships she was facing trying to have a baby.
“I get asked almost daily whether I have kids and whether I want kids. Very few people seem to recognize infertility as a reason for not having children (not that other reasons aren’t valid),” Jones shared. “When I’m honest with them, they often become visibly uncomfortable and apologetic. I would like to get to a place where we see infertility as something we can discuss openly without embarrassment or fear that we will be seen as less feminine.”
Jones said she loves caring for people and has wanted to have children since she was a child.
She married her husband, Donald Bush, in 2016, and said they never used contraception. In 2018, they started deliberately trying to have a baby and she began tracking her ovulation. By 2020, after still not getting pregnant, she knew something was wrong and decided to get help.
She went to Dr. Shera Forde Kelly, an OB-GYN from The Women’s Center based in Orlando who diagnosed her with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS and had her take a variety of supplements to improve her health.
According to the Mayo Clinic, PCOS is a hormonal disorder that’s common among women of reproductive age. Signs of PCOS include irregular periods and elevated levels of male hormones that cause excess facial or body hair, acne, or polycystic ovaries, according to the Mayo Clinic website, which also mentions that one of the complications of PCOS is infertility.
Jones first learned about PCOS back in 2012 when a classmate in law school mentioned she couldn’t get pregnant due to having the disorder. Jones researched it and realized she had many of the symptoms.
She learned that eating gluten was making her illness worse so she adopted a gluten-free, plant-based diet, and began to exercise more. With those changes, she started to feel better.
She eventually joined support groups on Facebook such as PCOS & TTC Support Group, PCOS for Black Girls, PCOS Diet & Support, Sista Cys- ter.
“Because I had so many years that my PCOS went untreated, I actually developed tubal disease. The one tube I had left closed,” Jones explained.
Jones, desiring to naturally conceive, went through procedures with fertility specialist Dr. Sejal Patel of the Center for Reproductive Medicine in Celebration, Florida, to try to have her fallopian tube reopened. The procedures were unsuccessful.
That’s when Jones decided to embrace in vitro fertilization (IVF), a procedure former first lady Michelle Obama endured to conceive when she was close to the same age. It entails retrieving eggs from the ovaries and fertilizing them with sperm in a lab. Then, the fertilized egg or eggs are transferred to a uterus.
“I thank God for the technology. I never had any negative feelings about IVF itself. I just felt a sort of primal desire to make my body function in the way that other women’s bodies did. I had to set aside judgments that I had about myself in order to appreciate the opportunity to conceive despite the damage to my reproductive system,” Jones said.
Pursuing IVF isn’t cheap. Even with having insurance, Jones said one cycle will cost her and her husband $30,000. They decided to finance it with a loan.
“Honestly, we are blessed, and we work hard. In life, we generally live by the principle that we can have what we want. We make reasonable plans, and we execute them,” Jones explained. “If I had told him I wanted a $30,000 car, we would have taken out a loan, bought the car, and paid the bill every month, and nobody would have asked me how I convinced my husband to let me have a car.”
She started her IVF cycle in late March. It involves daily injections, sometimes in the abdomen and sometimes in the buttocks, which are needed to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs, according to the Mayo Clinic. After the cycle is over, while sedated, doctors will extract her eggs and create an embryo with the eggs and her husband’s sperm.
“I grew up with an insulin-dependent aunt so sticking myself in the belly doesn’t seem so bad,” Jones said.
The plan is for doctors to transfer the embryo to Jones’ body around June. Two weeks after the transfer, she will take a pregnancy test to see if the embryo implanted, initiating pregnancy. If the embryo doesn’t implant, they’ll attempt another transfer. If the transfer of embryos doesn’t lead to implantation after several attempts, Jones said there are other aggressive measures she could pursue or surrogacy.
Sense of relief
For Jones, starting the IVF process has provided her a sense of relief.
“I’m not suffering anymore. I’m going through a process now. It’s so much more enjoyable, relaxing and less stressful that I can go through a process and not constantly be grappling with ‘what can I do?’” Jones said.
Part of the reason Jones didn’t seek treatment for her PCOS was because she said she had many negative experiences with doctors in the past. She went through about 10 doctors in the past decade before she found her current medical team whom she trusts.
“Even when I started getting more and more sick in law school, I sought out an acupuncturist rather than a medical doctor, and I must say it worked,” Jones said.
“I can’t overestimate the importance of finding doctors that [you] feel comfortable with. The long period of time when I didn’t seek medical care was largely because I did not trust them. I think of how sick I was, but I also stand by my choice,” Jones related.
“I had been demeaned and dismissed by so many doctors who told me insulting things. I would experience irregular vaginal bleeding and doctors would tell me I was on my period as if I was a fool. They would tell me to ‘have fun’ with my husband in response to my concerns about [infertility].
It negatively impacted my mental health far more than it improved my physical health.”
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