Words were unable to describe the grief felt by Emily McClearen and her husband, Richard Staley, over their stillborn daughter, Monroe. Instead, the couple from California decided to capture their emotions in a photo gallery taken moments after Monroe was delivered via C-section. With the help of Lindsey Natzic-Villatoro from Lovesong Events and Photography, Emily and Richard have turned their heartache into a lasting memory of their daughter, whom they could not be more proud of.
“I wanted our family to have some way to show how beautiful our daughter was,” Emily told Yahoo Health. “I was proud of her, and I wanted to show her off and make sure her memory lives on.”
One day after Emily finished her morning coffee, she realized her daughter was not kicking or moving inside of her stomach like she usually did. After moving her belly to coax some movement, she grabbed her heart monitor to check on Monroe. The silence on the other end was disconcerting, to say the least. Following an emergency ultrasound at the hospital, Emily was given the earth-shattering news that her daughter was strangled by the umbilical cord inside of her womb.
In spite of her pregnancy’s tragic ending, Emily felt it was necessary to have something that would help preserve the memory of her daughter. After a friend with cancer helped put Emily and Richard in touch with Natzic-Villatoro the night before Monroe’s C-section, the professional photographer was at the hospital the very next day. As a mother of three, Natzic-Villatoro’s heart went out for Emily, so she was willing to help in any way she was capable of.
“When I got there, they gave mom the option of having me in the OR during the C-section,” Natzic-Villatoro wrote under the photos on her Facebook page. “Mom and Dad decided that was right where I needed to be, although both were very scared and nervous. I went into the bathroom before we walked into the OR, said a prayer for the surgery and for everything that was about to transpire. I then got all geared up, and together Dad and I met mom in the OR where surgery had already started.”
Although she specializes in photographing terminally ill patients as part of her sessions, “Forever Loved,” Natzic-Villatoro explains that every session affects her differently. Even after 15 to 20 terminal sessions a month, she is still not free from the weight of situations like Emily and Richard’s. However, by sharing Monroe’s story with other parents who may be faced with a similar state of affairs, Lindsey, Emily, and Richard can find some peace in mind in knowing her death has the ability to comfort another mother and will not be forgotten.
“I looked at mom on the operating table, she knew my heart was breaking for her,” Natzic-Villatoro added. “With my hair and mouth covered, and only my eyes to be seen Mom and Dad both knew I was doing everything I could to be supportive and hold it together for them. I needed to be strong; I needed to do my job. At 7:52am I looked at that clock and sweet baby Monroe Faith Staley was born. I was the first to see her. My eyes quickly filled with tears as I pulled my mask down, looked over to mom and dad and said, ‘SHE IS PERFECT.’”
Donate to the funeral ceremony Monroe deserves on Emily and Richard’s GoFuneMe page.