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A Heartbreaking Portrait Session with Grieving Parents and Their Stillborn Daughter

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Sometimes, photographer Lindsey Villatoro finds herself questioning life. An event and portrait photographer who primarily photographs babies, families, children and weddings, her photography business is built around love.

But often that love is expressed most poignantly in the midst of unimaginable tragedy, and such was the case with Emily and Richard Staley, who Villatoro met in the most devastating of circumstances.

You see, one of the services Villatoro offers through her business, Love Song Photography, is something called “Forever Loved” sessions. They’re portrait sessions born out of a need to preserve treasured memories with a loved one who has maybe recovered from a life-threatening illness, is stricken with a terminal illness, or has, perhaps, already passed away.

In the Staleys’ case, it was the last of these.

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On Friday, July 25th, less than 10 weeks away from their due date, they found out their daughter had died in the womb because of the umbilical cord wrapping around her neck. It was that day that Villatoro first found out about the Staleys:

Friday afternoon as I was preparing for my weekend sessions with all 3 of my girls I got an email from a girl named Kelly telling me her sweet friend just found out her baby had died. She told me some details and asked if I would contact the family to be there in their time of need. Given the circumstances, you only have a very short window to truly capture these forever moments. I rushed out of the store I was in and called this woman.

When this mother answered the phone she could barely speak. She knew I was calling which I’m sure was the only reason why she answered the phone. She was short of breath, crying uncontrollably between her words and could barely even speak.

Between sobs, Ms. Staley explained what had happened: how she had had her morning coffee and oatmeal as usual, and noticed that the baby wasn’t moving around like she usually did; how she had tried to find a heartbeat with the heart monitor but couldn’t; and how her worst fears had been realized when she arrived at the hospital and the doctors confirmed that her sweet child had passed away.

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Ms. Staley decided that she would deliver by C-Section the next day, and asked if Villatoro could be there to document the precious little time they would have with their child. She, of course, agreed and met them the next morning at the hospital.

What transpired from that moment on is heart wrenching: Monroe Faith Staley — a perfect 6 pound 2.5 ounce, 19-inch long baby girl — was born and spent a few precious hours with her parents. And through all of it, Villatoro was there, photographing through her tears.

“Any image that came to mind, I shot,” she writes on her Facebook page. “I wanted this family to have every possible memory of this child I could physically give them.”

The images, she explains, are being shared in Monroe’s memory and at the request of Emily and Richard, so that others who have lost a child in such an unexpected way might find a little bit of comfort knowing that they are not alone:

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As you might imagine, the heartbreaking Forever Loved sessions like this one are not easy for Villatoro, but they’re nevertheless incredibly important because they bring support and healing to everyone involved.

In the case of the Staleys, that healing and support has already reached hundreds of thousands through Facebook and the press, and it will hopefully reach hundreds of thousands more.

To read the full story behind these photographs, head over to Love Song Photography’s Facebook page by clicking here. And if you’d like to find out more about what Villatoro does, be sure to read our coverage on one of her other Forever Love sessions, and then visit the Love Song Photography website.

(via Fstoppers)


Image credits: Photographs by Lindsey Villatoro/Love Song Photography and used with permission