Not long before Emily Staley was to give birth, the kicks stopped.
An ultrasound exam revealed that the baby was not alive, the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, and so Staley and her husband, Richard, scheduled a cesarean section. But the Lake Elsinore couple was determined to introduce their daughter to the world and remember her as a baby, not just a stillborn in a haunting moment of pain.
So a friend reached out to Riverside County photographer Lindsay Natzic-Villatoro. She had photographed stillborns before, heartbreaking events that are typically "very hush-hush."
"Nobody wants to talk about it," she said. "Nobody wants to picture it."
But after posting the photos she took of the Staleys and their 6-pound, 2½-ounce baby the photographer has received more than 5,000 emails sharing words of encouragement and support for the family.
The emotional photographs show the Staleys lovingly holding their baby, who they named Monroe Faith, in the moments just after the cesarean.
The photos have generated more than 121,000 shares since they were posted on Love Songs & Events Photography's Facebook page last Monday. And in just three days, Natzic-Villatoro helped raise roughly $19,000 to assist with funeral expenses through a public donation website.
The stillbirth hit Natzic-Villatoro particularly hard since she had given birth to her own daughter 11 months earlier at the same hospital, attended by the same nursing staff.
Still, despite the similarities, "I can cry with my clients, but not harder than my clients," she said.
The Staleys could not be reached for comment, but Natzic-Villatoro, who was speaking on behalf of the family, said that by sharing their story, they hoped to "bring comfort to other families out there that have also experienced such tragedy."