It was a normal Friday morning for a mother in Menifee and another mom in Lake Elsinore. However, a chain of events would take place where together their two worlds would meet for a life altering moment that has captured the heartstrings of thousands worldwide.
Lindsey Natzic-Villatoro, who is a professional photographer and owner of Love Song Events & Photography in Menifee was grocery shopping when she ran into a friend who asked her to take photos of a birth. This was not going to be a typical birth the friend warned. The baby had died that morning inside the mother’s womb.
Natzic-Villatoro believes she was the perfect person to handle such a tragic situation since capturing the beauty of life with grace and dignity when life is fleeting is one of her many talents.
Emily Staley, 26, and her husband Richard, 29, of Lake Elsinore had the crib ready and the baby clothes laid out; they were proud and excited to soon be parents of a baby girl. On a typical Friday morning in July, Emily, who was 37 weeks pregnant, was having her morning coffee when she noticed a lack of movement inside her womb.
Alarmed at the lack of activity she rushed herself to Rancho Springs Medical Center in Murrieta. The ultrasounds discovered the baby had died. Doctors believed the baby’s passing was due to the umbilical cord wrapping around her neck. Staley was given a choice to deliver vaginally or to have a cesarean. Emily chose the latter but since she just had breakfast, the surgery had to be postponed for a certain number of hours.
Emily drove herself home thinking about how she and her husband could honor their baby girl who they considered already a part of their family.
“I wanted our family to have some way to show how beautiful our daughter was,” Emily said. “I was proud of her and I wanted to show her off and make sure her memory lives on.”
Natzic-Villatoro dropped everything and met the Staley’s for the first time at the hospital. The moment was surreal for the photographer who had flashbacks as she walked through the hospital doors at the same hospital where her own children were born.
“I was on the same floor, the surroundings were familiar, and we even had the same nurse. She could have been me; I could have been her,” Natzic-Villatoro said.
Emily and Natzic-Villatoro lives entwined in the operating room. The photographer mom grabbed the birthing moms hand and introduced herself, “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.”
“This was my first stillbirth I didn’t know what to expect,” said Natzic-Villatoro. “But this was my job and I there for the mom and dad. There were moments right before the birth that were difficult. At one point the anesthesiologist placed his hand on my back as I fought back tears.”
Natzic-Villatoro said she went to work capturing the moments as they cleaned up the baby.
“I lost it when Emily asked what her baby looked like and if she was beautiful,” Natzic-Villatoro said.
According to Natzic-Villatoro, Emily screamed when all hope that the doctors might be wrong were dashed and the baby was stillborn.
“Her baby was beautiful she looked like she was sleeping and would wake up,” Natzic-Villatoro suspects Emily felt for a moment as lifeless as her baby.
Emily and Richard spent the next few hours with their baby girl, whom they named Monroe Faith. She was born six pounds and seven ounces. They held her and loved her in their arms like any new parent would. Emily held baby Monroe Faith to her chest and cherished their brief time together while Natzic-Villatoro captured the bittersweet moments on film.
“I am grateful to be able to open an avenue where parents can feel validated they are still a mother and father it doesn’t have to be swept under the rug,” said Natzic-Villatoro.
The Staley’s have another daughter age six and Natzic-Villatoro hopes the photos will help the family know they are a family of four.
The photos went viral after Emily and Richard posted them on Facebook for their family and friends to see their beautiful daughter.
Natzic-Villatoro said she received seven-thousand emails from around the world about the stillborn photos and only five emails were negative.
“I had one father send me a nasty email but when I responded to him with love he apologized and said he was still hurting from losing his son 19 years ago,” Natzic-Villatoro said. “I do these photos only for my clients. They shared their story and I am here for them.”
Baby Monroe Faith proved there are no feet too small or life too short to leave an impact on the world.