It was supposed to signify the glorious embrace of life.
Instead, Dion Donohue was confronted with the possibility of losing both his girlfriend and son during childbirth.
Delivery complications at Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital threatened a devastating outcome.
The Pompey footballer and father-to-be endured the anguish of witnessing son Mason born without breathing, the child unable to grasp air for five minutes.
Meanwhile, distressed girlfriend Nadine lost two-and-a-half pints of blood in the midst of labour, doctors and nurses fighting to alleviate her sustained agony.
That was six months ago. Today, Donohue feels blessed.
His loved ones battled through that traumatic April day, thankfully without repercussions and spared of side effects.
The 25-year-old feared he had lost everything – instead, he cradled a completed family.
Donohue told The News: ‘I remember my mum’s husband asking me straight after the birth: “How does it feel to be a dad?”.
‘I couldn't answer him, I didn't know what to say, I was probably still in shock. I hadn’t even got my head around what had happened.
‘It is supposed to be the best day of your life. I was just thinking: “I'm never doing this again”.
‘They have all those machines which keep track of the baby’s heartbeat – it was dropping while Nadine was having her contractions.
‘When he eventually came out, he wasn’t breathing.
‘In the meantime, my girlfriend had lost two-and-a-half pints of blood, so wasn’t in the best condition either. I was sitting there thinking they had both gone, to be honest.
‘I don’t know what it was, something just clicked in my head where I thought my son had died. They had taken him away and I just had to focus on Nadine.
‘Unbeknown to her, she was losing a load of blood – and I could see it. She was on gas and air and didn’t really realise the condition she was in – but I could see it.
‘She was in a pretty bad way, while 15 doctors and nurses were in the room working on her.
‘I was sat there. Nadine’s mum was in the room with us in turmoil as well, of course she was, it’s her daughter, she was distraught. And Nadine didn’t have a clue.
‘Being a paramedic, however, even though she was drugged up and didn’t realise what was going on, she soon understood what the doctors were staying, she knew their language, even if I didn’t.
‘She was screaming: “He’s dead, he’s dead”. It was a tough 10 minutes.
‘From what I could see, they had taken my son away and put him under a heat lamp. I didn’t know what they were doing. I later learnt it was a process of trying to warm him up, to resuscitate him.
‘After five minutes he started screaming and the nurses were saying: “Can you hear him, can you hear him?”
‘My little boy was alive after all. I was blessed.’
Days earlier, with his partner expectant, Donohue had driven to Walsall separately from his team-mates to represent Pompey in a 1-0 League One victory.
Nadine was taken into hospital the following day, ruling her partner out of Kenny Jackett’s selection plans for the Bank Holiday Monday visit of Wigan.
The Blues boss had demonstrated welcome empathy, allowing the left-sided player to declare himself unavailable in order to attend the birth.
Instead, Donohue watched the televised fixture unfold from an iPad while sat with his girlfriend in hospital, with Pompey claiming a 2-1 victory over former manager Paul Cook’s side.
Then, the following day, on the morning of April 3, 2018, arrived the moment which would change the family’s life. Fortunately for the better.
Mason is now aged six months and 10 days, while Nadine has fully recovered.
Daddy this week grabbed a classy winner in a 1-0 Checkatrade Trophy triumph at Crawley – his first match of the season.
Donohue himself has suffered terrible medical misfortune since the summer, sidelined by a blistered foot, glandular fever, groin problems and then a hamstring injury.
But the former Chesterfield man, who has made 36 appearances for Pompey, possesses every reason to be thankful.
He added: ‘Mason has a good set of lungs but doesn't use them often, he’s a happy kid.
‘We’ve been lucky. Considering what he went through when he came out, we couldn’t ask for more.
‘I didn't actually get to hold him until 30 minutes after he was born – and it was the best feeling in the world.
‘If you lack oxygen for a certain amount of time then your brain is in trouble, but everything is all right now.
‘As for Nadine, I don’t know the medical terminology, but after giving birth the valve to stop the bleeding stayed open. The doctors had to stitch her up on the inside.
‘Considering the amount of blood she lost, she couldn't physically move out of bed, although was allowed home two days later. Within two hours, Nadine collapsed and an ambulance had to return her to hospital.
‘She eventually underwent two blood transfusions. It was an awful few weeks.
‘With Mason, there was that worry for the first couple of weeks, you just cannot tell the condition of their eyes or state of their breathing. “He seems all right, but is everything working?”, you ask yourself.
‘Life is on the up, though. Mason is healthy, while Nadine has recovered.
‘I feel so blessed to have both of them. He’s such a happy kid, growing so quickly with no lasting effects.
‘The work the hospital staff did for my family was unbelievable, I am so grateful for their fantastic help.
‘And to answer that question from my mum’s husband about how it feels to be a dad?
‘It’s the best thing ever.’