Three years ago, Chris Emanuel met the woman who would become the mother of his child, and they fell in love. When she told him that she was pregnant, he was overjoyed and wanted to get married so they could be a family together in Aiken, South Carolina.

“I was happy, who wouldn’t be happy?” Emanuel told ABC’s Night Line. “It was my first child and at the time, you know, I’m going to be there. We’re going to do everything we got to do.”

Watch the full Nightline report on Chris’ battle here

But as they met each other’s families, Emanuel said that he got the feeling her family didn’t approve of him, and he suspected that race was a factor.

“Like hearing racism but actually feeling it, it totally different. It’s like being punched in the stomach,” he said.

Although his unnamed girlfriend reassured him they would stay together and they continued to text back and forth, the couple saw each other less and less in person.

At this point, Emanuel’s family became concerned with his girlfriend’s actions and began researching South Carolina’s laws for father’s rights. At their urging and after his girlfriend didn’t show up to a baby shower, he joined a “responsible father registry” that would allow him to be notified if his child was put up for adoption.

Only a few days later, he was told that his child had already been born and had been given up for adoption in another state.

“My daughter was stolen from me,” Emanuel said, recalling the shock he felt.

The adoptive parents pleaded with Emanuel to let them keep Skylar, but Emanuel remained persistent and eventually won the rights to his daughter back.

“All I could do was break down on my knees, and I cried and I thanked God for bringing my daughter home because all I needed was for her to get in my arms,” Emanuel said.

Read more and watch the emotional Night Line video report here.