BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - It wasn't the birthing experience that first-time mom Hanna-Kay Williams planned.
But when contractions struck the 22-year-old mom-to-be early in the week, and labor began just as then-Tropical Storm Ian churned into Brevard County, Florida, Williams knew she didn't have a choice.
"This would not be anything close to what I would expect," said Williams, who was 41 weeks pregnant by the time she gave birth.
Monday night, Williams started having contractions. They were light, she said, describing the feeling like menstrual cramps. However, the next morning, they intensified, and she knew her baby was coming.
Over the course of Tuesday, she continued having contractions, though she was able to get up and move around. She said she made an effort to breathe through them and walk around to help her body prepare, and by bedtime, there were no signs of active labor.
"My fiancé and I, we were just ... trying not to have so much anxiety around the whole birth," she said.
But at 2 a.m. Wednesday, as Ian's winds swept through Brevard and the county braced for the possibility of flooding and wind damage, Williams told her fiancé, Whingy Maxis, that it was time.
"I got up and I looked at (my fiancé) and I was like, 'Yeah, baby, it's time to go. It is definitely time to go.'"
With wind and rain pummeling Brevard, Williams said she was nervous to go out on the road, but also worried the baby might arrive at home. But Maxis and Williams' mother, Joyce Williams, helped her into the car, and the three headed to Health First's Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne despite the gusting winds. Because of the weather, a normally 20 to 25-minute drive took about 45 minutes, Williams said.
But she wasn't paying attention to the wind, rain or slow driving, she said.
"I was just more so trying to count my contractions, see how far apart they were, in my own mental hurricane," she said.
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By the time they arrived at the hospital, she was about four centimeters dilatated. As she labored in the birthing area, she could see the storm raging outside.
"We had an open view of the parking lot and everything, so I could see everything brewing in the sky," she said. "We saw it from like the beginning to kind of like the end."
As she watched the storm both outside her window and on the news, she prayed for protection, she said.
"There was a point that I remember looking outside, and I was thinking to myself, praying to myself," she said. "I was like, 'God, please don't let ... something just fly through these windows.'"
Part of Williams' initial plan was to have a completely natural birth. However, at 8 a.m., she chose to receive an epidural. About 10 hours later, the epidural was wearing off, and by 9 p.m., doctors said she would need an emergency cesarean section.
Williams said she was comfortable with the decision and ready.
"They took me to the OR, they prepped me, they made sure I was numb and the procedure began, and within about five to seven minutes or so, I feel this big, heavy weight just get placed on my legs," she said. "And that's the realization like, 'Oh my goodness, we're there. We did that. My baby girl is finally here.'"
Baby Wajiha measured 20 inches and weighed 7 pounds and 13 ounces when she was born.
"We had a previous name picked out, but we were still on edge of it," she said. Maxis did more research into names and their meanings while Williams was in labor, as the parents wanted to make sure they picked a name with a strong meaning.
Her name, Williams said, was chosen because of the storm.
"(Wajiha) means beautiful woman glorious, and I don't think there's any other word that describes her better than that," Williams said.
Getting to finally see her daughter has been mind boggling, Williams said. She recalled special moments such as the first time Maxis held Wajiha, experiencing the smell of a new baby and watching her daughter breastfeed for the first time.
"She does this thing where she puts her hands in front of her face and she just keeps it propped up there, and it pushes up her cheeks," she said. "Looking at her fingernails ... that's when it really hit like I just created a whole human being."
Though she described the experience as "harrowing," it was all worth it in the end.
"Once you see that baby, smell that baby, hear that baby is when it really hits you that you're a parent, and you have someone that kind of depends on you until you take your last breath," she said. "That's the beauty of life. I've got the real beauty of life."
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Florida mom gives birth to baby after Hurricane Ian makes landfall