For more than 14 years, Tosha Pratt and her husband, Nick Pratt, had tried to conceive a baby without any luck. Unable to afford costly in vitro fertilization treatments, they wondered if they would have to give up.
Then, a few days after Thanksgiving in 2016, Pratt sat down at her desk at Ultimate Software in Dawsonville, Georgia — where she works as an implementation consultant — and opened a company email delivering some incredible news: Her employer had decided to cover IVF treatments for any worker who was struggling to have a family.
“I sat there and cried tears of joy,” Pratt, now 35, tells PEOPLE. “This was finally our channel to have the family we’d always wanted. It was the best early Christmas present ever.”
She and her husband, 38, are now parents to a 4 1/2-month daughter, Alayna Faith, born on March 5, 2018, after a successful IVF treatment done last June.
“After 14 years and one miscarriage nine years ago, we are so happy and grateful,” says Pratt. “Without IVF coverage, who knows if we would have been able to do it on our own.”
Because in vitro fertilization treatments cost about $12,000 and up — with no guarantee of success — Ultimate Software executives decided it made sense to add IVF coverage to their company’s medical plan.
The software firm also covers the cost of gender reassignment surgery and includes same-sex married couples in healthcare and dental plans — just several of the many reasons the company is one of PEOPLE’s 2018 50 Companies That Care. Ultimate Software landed at number three on the list.
“UltiPeeps [the company’s nickname for employees] matter to us,” says Vivian Maza, Ultimate Software’s chief people officer. “Unfortunately, we have some people who haven’t been able to fulfill their dream of having a family and can’t afford the high cost of IVF treatment. We want to ensure that we are listening to our people and make changes important to them, where we can make a difference in their lives.”
Maza sends notes of encouragement to employees who haven’t yet had successful pregnancies with treatment, and messages of congratulations to those who have.
“It was a thrilling day for my husband and me when I became pregnant, but then six weeks later, we lost our little one,” Erica Townsend, a 31-year-old strategic executive relationship manager in Santa Ana, California, tells PEOPLE. She plans to do another round of IVF sometime this fall.
“Viv sent me flowers with a note that I still hold on to,” she says of the time after her miscarriage. “It read, ‘Thinking of you and sends lots of UltiLove. I know this will happen for you.’ It was the encouragement that I needed to move forward.”
Townsend finds hope in the stories of other women who also had failed pregnancy attempts with IVF and were finally successful.
Lisa Marie Cervantes, a 34-year-old tax analyst who also works in Santa Ana, had two failed IVF treatments and finally became pregnant with her daughter on her third try.
“To hold her, feed her, smell her and see her from head to toe still feels like a dream,” she tells PEOPLE. “If it weren’t for Viv Maza and her generous heart, this dream would never have become a reality.”
When faced with selecting a name for their daughter after she was born last month, Cervantes and her husband, Sal Cervantes, knew there was only one possibility: They named their girl Vivienne Rose, after Maza.
To see the full list of PEOPLE’s 2018 50 Companies That Care, click here.