Pregnant Florida woman drives through Hurricane Ian to give birth

Hanna-Kay Williams went into labor late Tuesday night.

September 30, 2022, 3:58 PM

A pregnant Florida woman braved strong winds and potentially dangerous flooding to get to a hospital after she went into labor during Hurricane Ian.

Hanna-Kay Williams, 22, from Melbourne -- about 70 miles southeast of Orlando -- started to experience contractions late Tuesday evening. The area was already experiencing signs of the hurricane to come with fierce wind gusts and rain already coming down.

Williams said she knew she was going to go into labor soon, so she, her fiancé and her mother drove through the treacherous conditions to Health First's Holmes Regional Medical Center.

"We decided to go to the hospital at 2 a.m. because that's when the contractions really started," Williams told ABC News. "I was going in and out because the car was swaying in the wind and the rain was intense, but my fiancé is a great driver so I was in great hands."

They arrived at the hospital in the early hours of Wednesday morning, but Williams' delivery would not come quickly. She was in labor for more than 20 hours as Ian unleashed heavy rain and winds of more than 40 mph in the central part of the state.

Doctors decided an emergency C-section was needed because Williams wasn't fully dilated and there were signs of fetal distress, which occurs when a fetus experiences changes in heart rate or shows signs of oxygen deprivation before or during labor.

"It was very clear my cervix not completely dilated and we were not going to have a smooth sail with a natural birth," she said. "It was a little disappointing because of all the hard physical work that was put in before that, but I knew that I wanted what was best for me and my baby."

PHOTO: Baby Wajiha lies in a portable hospital bed shortly after being born during Hurricane Ian, Sept. 28, 2022, in Melbourne, Fla.
Baby Wajiha lies in a portable hospital bed shortly after being born during Hurricane Ian, Sept. 28, 2022, in Melbourne, Fla.
Courtesy of Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center

Thanks to the medical care, Williams had a healthy baby girl named Wajiha at 10:11 p.m. ET, weighing 7 pounds 13 ounces and measuring 20 inches, after the C-section. The name means "beautiful woman" and "glorious," she said.

"I'm going to give all the credit to my fiancé," she said of the name. "We were on a journey in finding the most unique name. He picked it. Today, when we look at her and call her name, it's a perfect match."

After the difficult labor and severe weather, the new mother said she and her family feel grateful Wajiha is doing well.

"We came out on top, we definitely did," Williams said in a news release. "I felt when she first arrived and they sat her on my lap, the first thing I said was, 'That's a big baby' and then I looked at her and thought, 'That's my twin,' even though I already have a fraternal twin."

She also gives credit to the nursing staff and everyone on the medical team for keeping her calm during the challenging childbirth.

"I don't think I would have made it through labor as calmly as I did without them," she told ABC News.

PHOTO: Hanna-Kay Williams and her fiancé kiss their newborn daughter, Wajiha, who was born during Hurricane Ian, Sept. 28, 2022, in Melbourne, Fla.
Hanna-Kay Williams and her fiancé kiss their newborn daughter, Wajiha, who was born during Hurricane Ian, Sept. 28, 2022, in Melbourne, Fla.
Courtesy of Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center

After battering the southwestern coast, Hurricane Ian moved towards central Florida, bringing heavy flooding, resulting in people being rescued from homes, cars and even nursing homes.

In Orlando, a record rainfall of 12.5 inches was recorded in 24 hours. In New Smyrna Beach, about 50 miles northwest of Florida, 28.60 inches of rain fell in 27 hours.

During a news conference Thursday morning, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Central Florida was experiencing "a 500-year flood event."

As of Friday afternoon, nearly 2 million people are without power in the state, including more than 600,000 across Central Florida, according to poweroutage.us.

ABC News' Max Golembo contributed to this report.

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