Todd and Melissa Trader of Naperville had a long and difficult journey to become parents. After spending an estimated $150,000 and six years on fertility treatments, they finally had a daughter, Jordan, now 5. She was followed by brother Breckin, now 2, who was conceived naturally. The struggle to have children and the strain it placed on them, both emotionally and financially, led the Traders to found Birdies for Babies, a golf outing at Tamarack Golf Club (where Melissa works) that raises money to pay for one round of in vitro fertilization for a selected couple.
Melissa talked to Chicago Parent about their road to parenthood, helping other parents and being a mom.
Can you tell me a little about your own experience with fertility treatments? I got pregnant right off the bat with Clomid and miscarried at seven weeks. Then I went through a couple inseminations and did get pregnant, and at 21 or 22 weeks, my appendix burst … I had emergency surgery, so I lost that baby. Then we went with IVF cycles after that and did-gosh, I can't even remember-like four or five fresh cycles, and one frozen (before I got pregnant). It was still like a rocky road, though … I had an emergency cerclage, a stitch in the cervix, because I was starting to dilate. From that point on, I was on bed rest. She was born very healthy at 36 weeks.
Why did you decide to help other people going through fertility treatments? When we were going through it, we didn't really have anyone to talk to. It was just Todd and I, and every time it would come back negative, I would cry, I would be mad, and then I'd be like, "I'm just going to start over again." And Todd would be like, "The money tree in the back yard is running out." When it doesn't work, it's all that money gone and you don't have anything to show for it. We just wanted to try to help people take away some of the stress of "How are we going to pay for this?" And it's a support for everyone we've dealt with, a little family where we can help each other out and talk.
How do you select which family you'll give the free IVF cycle to? We ask them to give a brief summary of what they've gone through. We just kind of read through and select that way. … We're trying to grow this and we want someone who is going to help bring players and constantly help support. It's not, "Here's your money, and we're never going to hear from you again."
If you could say one thing to a couple struggling with infertility, what would it be? What helped Todd and me through it is that we didn't lose sight of our relationship together. You get obsessed with it; when you want a child, you want one. You don't want to go through this and lose sight of the love you have for your husband (or wife). If you lose that, then what do you have? Don't lose that focus: you want to have a family, but you want to have a family with the person you're with.
How do you think that experience affects your parenting? Both of our kids, they really are great kids, but as any kid, they can test you. At first when (Jordan) was born, I was very protective-"Nobody touch her, we worked really hard for this!" As people who have gone through infertility, you know exactly what a miracle having a child is…. I give lots of hugs and squeezes to the kids. I think that it has helped me to see them as such joys and treasures. Each is very special.... I'd (do) it all over again for the outcome.
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.