Riverside County mother Emily Staley was drinking her morning coffee late last month, expecting to feel her baby in kick in response to the caffeine. But there was nothing.
The baby hadn’t kicked all morning. Panicking, Staley went to a heart monitor and again heard nothing.
At the hospital, she learned the baby girl inside her had died, strangled by her umbilical cord. A caesarean section was scheduled.
It was after that that a friend of Staley called Menifee photographer Lindsey Natzic-Villatoro, asking her to get in touch with Staley and her husband for a photo session.
Natzic-Villatoro then called Staley.
“She was short of breath, crying uncontrollably between her words and could barely even speak,” Natzic-Villatoro wrote in a Facebook post.
Natzic-Villatoro, whose Love Song Photography specializes in what she calls “forever loved sessions,” headed to the hospital to document the parents and their child.
The photos from that session have been shared some 123,000 times since they were posted to Facebook on July 28.
Natzic-Villatoro had photographed stillborn babies before, she told the Los Angeles Times, but typically the parents don’t want to talk about their tragedy.
“Nobody wants to talk about it,” she told the newspaper. “Nobody wants to picture it.”
But the Staleys wanted their child’s life celebrated, and they hoped distributing the photos would help others.
“They would like their story to be shared,” Natzic-Villatoro wrote of Emily and Richard Staley. “They hope to bring comfort to other families out there that have also experienced such tragedy.”
She warned Facebook users to write only kind comments and to stay away if their response was negative.
“It has taken an extreme amount of courage for them to share this story and your negative opinion is not needed,” the photographer wrote. “They deserve encouraging words, stories and comments.”
At the hospital when the photographer entered the room where she met the Staleys, Natzic-Villatoro wrote: “I grabbed mom’s hand and I told her this was quite literally the worst thing that could ever happen to a mother but together we were going to get through this.”
Then, at 7:52 a.m., a 6 pound, 2 1/2 ounce girl arrived. The parents named her Monroe Faith.
“I was the first to see her,” said Natzic-Villatoro, who was in the operating room. “My eyes quickly filled with tears as I pulled my mask down, looked over to mom and dad and said, ‘SHE IS PERFECT.’”
After the surgery, the parents went into a private room at the hospital, where Natzic-Villatoro took photos.
Posting the images to her business’ Facebook page, she called for supporters to pray for the family, which includes a 5-year-old big brother to Monroe Faith.
“They want their daughter’s life to be remembered,” she wrote.