MATERNITY PHOTOS | Dreamy Southern California Beach Maternity Photos

I've known Holly since 2008 when she took me under her wing and taught me everything there is to now about weddings. Yes, this girl right here is THE person who brought me into the wedding industry so if it weren't for here, I literally would not be where I am at right now. But enough about me --

This beauty recently gave birth to the most handsome baby boy, Rory, and when I saw her beach maternity photos, I knew I just HAD to feature them on the blog. If you're in need of any maternity photo inspiration or maternity photo outfits, THIS IS IT. Four totally swoon-worthy maternity photo outfits and beyond imaginable beauty, right here. Here is Holly's birth story and the most gorgeous beach maternity photos she took before her little man's arrival!

Brian Leahy Photography | Photography
Journey of Self Love | Holly's Blog
Design Visage | Hair +Makeup
Flowers by Cina | Flower Crown
Sew Trendy Accessories | Teal Maternity Dress


Let me take you a few weeks back before I fully dive in to what my husband and I have dubbed "The Wild Ride."  At 38 weeks I had my first cervical exam and I was 2 centimeters dilated and 80% effaced.  I was super happy to hear that.  I knew it was very common for first time moms to deliver 7-10 days past their due date, but this made me feel like I would most certainly be on or before my due date.  At 39 weeks I went in and I was 3 centimeters and still 80% effaced.  I was not SURE that I would not go past my due date.  At 40 weeks, on my due date I was now 4 cm and 90% effaced.  Well the due date came and went.  I felt totally ok with that because I knew it was very common to go past, and I thought for sure the next day. Nope.  At this point I was trying everything.  I had been walking and doing prenatal yoga my entire pregnancy and didn't miss a day of either of those two things starting at week 36.  Over the next week or so I had done everything.... chiropractor (which I did frequently throughout pregnancy), acupuncture twice, herbal remedies, etc. etc. 

Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos

A few days after my due date my midwife said I could do a membrane sweep if I wanted, and that would most likely do it since I was already 4 cm and 90% effaced.  Since the baby was doing well, I opted to not intervene quite yet.  I felt that he would come when he was ready.  At my week post date appointment to check the baby she offered again and we decided to decline it again to allow the baby to come when ready.  However, we were against a clock.  By law, at 42 weeks, midwives must transfer care over to an OB/GYN.  Our ideal plan was to have the baby at the birth center with our midwife with low lights, calm energy, etc.  So what we decided was to a membrane sweep on Monday, because the following Friday would have been 42 weeks.  I honestly didn't think I would even make it to Monday for the membrane sweep.  Monday came, and I was still pregnant, so there we were sweeping the membranes.  I hated to intervene, but we starting to fight the 42 week clock.  Whether that membrane sweep caused our birthing time to begin, we'll never know, but things certainly picked up that night!  After my appointment we went to lunch, and then went for a 2 mile walk.  That night we ate dinner and I went to bed thinking that it probably wouldn't that happen because I wasn't feeling anything.

Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos

Then at midnight I woke up the feeling of a little leak.  I got out of bed and my water burst all over the floor.  Ok, so this it!  I immediately was flooded with anxiety because I knew labor was rapidly approaching.  I had done so much physical and mental preparation, but was it enough??  We immediately called our midwife and she told us to try to relax and go back to sleep because I would need the rest. (Maternal exhaustion is the biggest reason that women transfer from a birth center to the hospital for an epidural).  She also said that contractions may start, or it may be a while, but the most important was to rest, and to call her when we were on our way to the birth center.  We were instructed to head to the center when the contractions were 3 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute each and had been that way an hour, commonly referred to as 3-1-1.  After we hung up with our midwife Rachel, we called our doula, Lauren.  Lauren is also actually a midwife.  She only does home births, and after we decided on the birth center, she was nice enough to create a package for us where I got to see her monthly for emotional support and have her be our doula on the day.  Lauren also said the same thing....to go back to sleep, and call her when things picked up and she wanted us to come over.

Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos

Well, things got started immediately.  I started having contraction after contraction.  Eric started timing them on the app he had downloaded and he thought he was doing it incorrectly because they were so close together so soon.  We had heard SO many times that labor for first time moms is pretty long.  Our doula lived 45 minutes from us so we called her to head over around 3am because we didn't know how fast things would escalate.  Eric packed the car and got us ready to go at which point we had reached 3-1-1 and then past it!  Contractions were now less than 3 minutes apart and we had to go.  He called Lauren and told her that we weren't going to wait for her and we would meet her at the birth center.  Luckily she had just parked at our house.  She came inside and listened to the baby and everything sounded good and she said it was indeed time to go.  As I was walking to the door I had my first contraction with a downward thrust.  I said to Lauren and Eric, "I don't think I'm going to make it to the birth center."  Lauren said she would check my cervix.  She said very calmly, "I think we can make it, but we have to go now, and I am going to ride in the car with you guys."  The initial plan was for her to follow us in her car, but she grabbed her midwife bag and got in the front seat.  I was in the back seat on my hands and knees and poor Eric was safely speeding down the freeway at 4am.  I barely remember the drive at all.  Lauren was applying counter pressure to my lower back which really helped.

Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos

When we got the birth center just before 4:30a I jumped straight into the tub.  The hot water felt SO good.  After laboring a bit in the water they had me sit on the toilet with a squatty potty and do a few contractions there. Then they had me get back in the tub.  Then they had me go the bed and lay on my side.  Rachel was SO awesome at compartmentalizing the process by keeping me moving and having me do just a few more contractions in each location.  She also instructed me where to move my leg and how to position myself to bring about the most progress.  Laying on the bed on my left side was apparently going great because I was there for a little bit.  Then she had me roll over on to my right side, and then back on to my left side.  I was deep in concentration and felt like everyone around was so far away.  It was just Eric, Rachel, Lauren, and two of Rachel's assistants.  It was quiet and peaceful.  There were candles lit and a fake fireplace going.  They brought my cool wash cloths and fanned me when needed and let me direct the whole process.  As each contraction came on I would let them know it was coming, push 3-4 times and then tell them it was gone.  I felt totally in control, and that really helped me feel empowered.  At 6:59a (after a short 7 hours of labor), our son, Rory Emerson Stein was born!  It was such a crazy feeling to feel him wiggle himself out after his head came out.  It also turned out that he was posterior, aka sunny side up!!  It was a shock to all of us because it was anterior (face down, they way he is supposed to be) at our appointment the day before!  They think that when my water broke he have flipped around.  Even still, babies generally rotate themselves to be face down before actually being born.  We were SO fortunate for so many reasons.  Often times posterior babies end up being a c-section because they get stuck since the largest part of the head is coming out first rather than the smallest.  The pushing stage of a posterior baby can also often be about 4 hours because it is harder to get them out.  We were SO lucky to have such a fast labor and that we didn't have to transport to the hospital.  Everything turned out exactly how visualized.

After he was born they all left the room and let us bond with the baby for a while before coming back to weigh him, measure him, etc.  Then at about 10:15a, just about 3 hours after he was born we headed home and were back in our bed by 11am.

Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos
Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos

I laugh looking back because in my bag for the birth center I had packed sage to clear the energy in the room, and I had birthing affirmations I was going to put up, we packed a camera, and I had a cute bikini top to wear in the tub....and we had no time for any of those things!  It turns out I was just about 10 cm at my house before we left to the birth center, and had he not been sunny side up, he probably would have been born in the car!  Everything turned out exactly the way it was supposed to and exactly how we wanted it to, and that was hugely in part to our research of options, handwork, and support and guidance from our awesome team!

Beach Maternity Photos - Brian Leahy Photo - Southern California Maternity Photos