Life’s Greatest Moments
Alicia Barnes and her arduous path to miraculous motherhood
By WARREN HUGHES
This Mother’s Day will find Alicia Barnes enfolding her children in a warm embrace of maternal love, the most sought-after role of her life for the versatile and talented former local TV anchor. Yet, that fulfillment as a parent eluded her and her husband, successful realtor Jacob John Jr., for years marked by both health concerns and disappointment.
Joy now radiates as the articulate and artistic Barnes describes the arrival of daughter Jacey, 16-months old, and newborn Jacob III, sharing what she calls her miracle journey into motherhood as an inspiration for others. Reminiscing on a recent afternoon in their fashionable Lake Murray home, Barnes says, “While it seems the time has flown, we had our share of ups and downs when we became ready to start a family.”
Like many couples, she and John, celebrating their fifth anniversary this Memorial Day, assumed parenthood would come easily once they decided the time was right. “When you get married, you are on such a high. I know I was. I had my Prince Charming and couldn’t wait to have a baby with his eyes. Like so many, you just figure it’s going to happen,” she recalled.
However, anticipation turned into anxiety as medical issues soon became obvious. “My first appointment with my doctor was alarming. After a few tests and an ultrasound, I heard for the first time I had fibroid tumors.” While the presence of fibroid tumors doesn’t necessarily foretell fertility issues, her case was decidedly challenging. Surgery to remove four tumors, called a myomectomy, was necessary.
When she and John were ready to try again, they were dismayed to learn Barnes had another large uterine fibroid, again requiring surgery. A series of subsequent reproductive procedures failed, further discouraging the once optimistic couple. At that point, they were worrying more about Barnes’ health than a future family.
She remembers being in her OB/GYN’s waiting room and holding the ultrasound that revealed more tumors. Someone there recognized her from her television days and congratulated her, mistakenly thinking she had received good news. Leaving the medical office, Barnes found herself overcome with tears, hoping she would never find herself in that waiting room again, so overwhelmed with disappointment.
Seeking other options, she turned to Dr. Sharon Aldrich at Parkridge OB-GYN PRISMA Health, who recommended she consult Dr. Heather Cook at Coastal Fertility Specialists in Charleston. Both physicians were very encouraging. “No one can promise that you’ll have that baby, but so much of the journey is staying positive and keeping hope alive,” Barnes says.
The next option, Barnes and John knew, was in-vitro fertilization, a complex series of procedures to aid in conception and a costly undertaking exceeding $10,000. “And you take this step knowing the outcome might not be successful,” Barnes added.
During this tense period, searching for a diversion from anxiety, Barnes turned to art, finding canvas and brush to be a creative and satisfying outlet. In the process she discovered a new talent that quickly became recognized and increasingly sought in artistic circles. She soon began showing her pieces in downtown galleries and on the coast. One of her most acclaimed paintings is called “Unknown Family,” capturing that period of hopeful uncertainty and yet to be fulfilled desire.
Then, having just celebrated their third anniversary, Barnes and John received the joyful news for which they had been yearning. “Our amazing, beautiful little Jacey arrived in 2017 and we couldn’t have felt more blessed,” Barnes said.
In the new role of mother, Barnes decided to take a career break after 10 years of being on television in Columbia to focus on a baby at home. “After all the surgeries and the ups and downs of trying to have a baby, I was drained from trying to look my best for TV as a news anchor,” she said, admitting it was a difficult decision to step away from a laudatory career after a decade as a committed and award-winning journalist.
In recognition of the community’s esteem, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin declared her last day of work, March 8, 2018, as “Alicia Barnes’ Day,” presenting her with a proclamation from City Council. John also surprised her during the telecast, arriving with their daughter in a happy demonstration of why she was bidding a temporary farewell in her career. The date coincided with International Women’s Day.
Shortly thereafter, Barnes learned she was pregnant again, but sadness descended yet another time. “We learned the baby I was expecting no longer had a heartbeat. While we were disappointed, we had an amazing little person to take care of. Personally, it made me hold Jacey even tighter and appreciate her mere existence even more,” she said.
A few months later, “While we were just beginning to accept that we would be a family of three, we learned another baby was on the way. Throughout all the hardships, it was our faith and prayers from family and friends, that carried us through. I knew I had made the right decision to take a break from my career,” she says. “I’m so grateful I was able to take a lot of stress away from having to juggle a work/life balance. We believe that is how Jacob III was born.” Barnes happily recalls her doctor’s jubilant declaration at the pronouncement.
Now, these days, as their fifth anniversary approaches, their lives are more rewarding than ever. “With the arrival of Jacob John, III and the growth of my husband’s real estate business, the Jacob John Group with United Real Estate, we feel fortunate I’m able to stay at home,” she says. They feel their family of four is now complete. So far, juggling two under two is not as demanding with the dedicated support of John whom she fondly describes as “a wonderful husband and a real gem of a father.”
Although thoroughly absorbed in motherhood, the Atlanta native and Clemson graduate, who also has an MBA, is often asked when she will return to television, a move she says she’ll consider in the future. It's easy to see why viewers want that to happen with the stellar journalist’s warm and winning manner.
Until then, you might catch a glimpse of Barnes during a quick trek to the Aloft Columbia Downtown hotel in the Vista, where her paintings are exclusively on exhibit. As an artist, she is known as Alicia John, honoring her husband. A signature feature of her richly textured abstract art, is an accent of 24-karat gold leaf from his ancestral country of India she has acquired from her travels there. She has been commissioned more than a dozen times to paint others with a theme of “Unknown Family” and to date has sold a total of more than 300 original paintings. “We all need to be encouraged and inspired and I want my paintings to remind myself and others to seize the day,” she says. Carpe Diem.