The title of father is one of the greatest honors a man can have. Fatherhood is not something that is given; it is something that is earned. A father is a man who loves, protects, and cares for his children. Biology doesn’t matter. This is my letter of thanks to the adoptive father of the baby I carried, and all the other men like him.

Adoptive fathers have worked and waited and prayed for their children more than most. I have met some who have worked extra hours to be able to afford the outrageous adoption fees. I have known others who have been the shoulder for their wives to cry on after a failed placement, even though their own hearts were breaking. I have seen them wait for months and years, never giving up hope that someday their baby would come.

I’ve never met a better father than little R’s adoptive dad. He is everything I hoped and wished for her. He loves her with all his heart, and she knows she has her daddy wrapped around her little finger. I have seen him wrestle his son and jump on the trampoline with his daughter. He changes diapers and fixes cars and takes his kids to church. He is the perfect example of a hands-on dad.

He treats his wife like a queen, and I know that little R will grow up expecting no less than the love and respect her father has for her mother. Because of his example, she will know what a healthy relationship looks like. His children will grow up with an amazing example of everything a man should be: loving, protective, and kind.

Sometimes, it can be hard for adoptive parents to navigate open adoptions. It’s hard! But the way little R’s adoptive parents have handled our relationship has been amazing. The day that I placed little R with her parents, I saw that her new father hurt for me. He understood my loss. His continued empathy and care have helped to heal my wounds. He has been so supportive of me, and together he and his wife have welcomed me graciously into their lives. I have never once felt unwelcome in their home. We talk about the kids, our jobs, my school, and my personal life. I don’t see her parents as ‘the adoptive mom and dad.’ I see them as my friends.

I may not be there every day to see it for myself, but I know that my birth daughter is having an amazing childhood. Because of adoption, I was able to give her the life she deserved. She has a stable home; she is loved; she is cared for. I sleep soundly every night knowing that she’s safe and secure under the watchful care of her amazing father.

To all the adoptive fathers, thank you. Thank you for doing your best. Thank you for loving and being there for your families. Thank you for earning your title of “Dad.”

Be sure to read the first part of the “Dads and Adoption Series.”