There is perhaps nothing more precious in this world than a baby. The birth of a child is a massive benchmark moment that changes your life forever and ever, amen.
Few would list other days of their lives as more important or more memorable than the day their child was born. And, yes, that includes those who lose their children before they even get to meet one another.
Let's talk about the elephant in the lesser-known operating room: stillbirth happens. There. It's been said. But there's one photographer out there who is changing the face of stillbirth events by crafting gorgeous portraits of these loves lost but not forgotten.
As a mama to three of her own children, photographer Lindsey Natzic-Villatoro is an interesting kind of hero — and in early July 2015, the Huffington Post released an article about Natzic-Villatoro, and how she was called on by a friend of mother-to-be, Emily Staley. The Staleys had been beside themselves with joy, ready to bring their precious baby daughter, Monroe Faith, into the world.
At eight months pregnant, Emily and her husband experienced the wicked pain that we often cannot believe any higher power would allow into our lives: Monroe's little heart had stopped beating in utero. But the science and medical aspects of life do not change no matter how emotional a scenario may be — Emily would have to deliver her baby — they don't just "go away" when they don't make it into the world alive.
In a series of photographs that went viral, Natzic-Villatoro captured the heart, soul, and deep, heavy emotion of Monroe Faith after being born via c-section. According to Natzic-Villatoro, the Staleys and she stayed in the OR for hours taking photograph after photograph of Monroe — alone, with her mother, with her father, and all together.
Why images like these matter
Some may argue that images of a stillbirth are morbid, morose, unnecessary, or plainly odd. And while they may not be for everyone, they are anything but morbid — in fact, images like those of Monroe with her parents turn the death-before-birth stigma on its head, polarizing an otherwise tragic event by celebrating the person, the body, the soul that resides within the tiny vessel.
Stillbirth affects many more women than we think, and that's because women don't talk about these events. But that's changing too, and it should. It's better for the mental health of the mother, father, and any older siblings to see and know there really was someone in there — that she did not make it to this plane in her mortal coil does nothing to diminish the importance of her legacy, no matter how short.
What's more, children born after Monroe who do make it into this world will have pictures of the big sister they never got to meet. Having pictures of a deceased sibling who came before you can help fill an indescribable void for many, especially as they come of age and begin to wonder what family is all about.
It's magical that parents are coming out of the dark to tell the stories of their lost children like the Staleys and their sweet Monroe Faith. Women need no longer feel lesser-than for having lost a child in the womb — all life is to be celebrated and no one knows that more purely, more sincerely, and more poignantly than mothers like Emily. Forget the baggage and the judgements: enjoy this gorgeous photograph of a beautiful baby girl. Long may she live in this collection, and long may this story of loss allow others to come into the light.