Former Miss New Jersey Ashley Harder talks about her pregnancy and daughter Ava Marie

08/25/2007 at 02:11 PM ET

When Miss New Jersey Ashley Harder, 21, stepped down from her position due to her pregnancy there was no choosing between the crown and the baby.

There was never a choice. I saw it as God’s way of telling me that my having Ava Marie was what he wanted.

Her decision, however, provoked great interest in the media.

My parents held me together and helped to guide me through the process and dealing with the media [who were] just waiting for a comment. That was pretty rough. But my parents did so much for me whether it was just being physically present or helping me get emotionally and spiritually focused on the fact that this baby was my life and that being a mother was what I was called to do.

Ashley hopes that her daughter Ava Marie, born July 29, will take after her mother,

[I can] only hope that Ava Marie knows that from the minute I found out that I was pregnant how much I loved her and how much I wanted her. I pray that she grows up to be as resilient as I am. I want her to stay true to herself and to respect the person she is.

That’s what I have learned through this whole process, that I’m the one who has to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that the life-changing decisions that I have made have been my choices. If Ava Marie can look at herself and be proud of who she is, then I have accomplished my goal as a mother.

Ashley hopes that women in a similar situation can look to her story when making their own difficult choices.

Perhaps, if there are women who see someone like myself who has been in the public eye and has had to defend my decision to keep my baby, it might make it easier for them to make the decision to keep their babies as well.

If nothing else, I’ll tell them that I know what a true miracle it is to conceive a child. When that child moves within you and you feel her kicking, there’s nothing negative about it. You can’t but help to fall in love with that baby. I never knew that I could love someone so much as I do Ava Marie.

Ava Marie is the first child for Ashley and her fiancé Gregg D’Antonio.

Source: Diocese of Trenton

Thanks to CBB reader Kitty.   

FILED UNDER: Uncategorized

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Showing 15 comments

cats on

What a beautiful and courageous young mother. I am very happy to read this account.

Anne on

“Spiritually”, “God wanted” her to have a child? How about marriage, abstaining from sex….oh yeah, how about birth control???

I’m glad she had her little girl, but give me a break with all this God talk…..

Sarah’s note: Well, it’s an interview with a Catholic magazine…

Callen on

Anne? although what your saying is true. You have to admit this girl has owned up to her responsibility’s!:)

cats on


I think what she’s trying to say is that we never know what God’s plan for us. In other words, sometimes God’s plan is not necessarily what we expected or hoped for. She is trusting in God and joyfully accepts her child as a gift from God even though she initially had different plans for her life.

Aaron on

There are a lot of people naming babies Ava right now! It’s like the “Michael” of the eighties only for girls. What’s up with that?!

HappyDay on

Don’t Catholics believe in abstinence before marriage?

Has on

Yes and Catholics also believe in abstinence for priests. We all know what has happened there…

Regina on

How nice for Ashley that both her Parents and her Fiance’ Gregg have supported her decision completely. That certainly makes her life a lot easier, doesn’t it? Yup..It would help most women “find the strength to choose like they want to.”

Yes indeedy do.

gabriella on

Happyday yes catholics are supposed to believe in that. And wow everybody is naming their baby girls Ava now.

nicole on


Annoyomus on

Anne- I’m guessing the reason she didn’t use or mention birth control is because, as a general rule, Catholics do not believe in birth control (I am not a Catholic myself, but I know several people who are).

Steffi on

Well I think it´s great that she chose her child over a career – if more women in Germany would do that we wouldn´t have such a big problem right now.

My two cents on the God thing: yup, I am a catholic but I am also a German that means that like the other 99% of my country I was taught that abstinence is nonsense and we start learning about birth control in grade 6 (the state actually makes us learn it). I lived in Texas for a year and the differences in countries when it comes to religion always used to amaze me greatly.

Heather on

“She hopes that women in a similar situation to hers can find the strength to keep their pregnancies:” This offensive anti-choice rhetoric only implies that young women in vulnerable positions who make the difficult decision not to keep a pregnancy are weak. There is a way to present this story without making unhelpful comments and judgments such as this. One woman’s decision can be celebrated and understood without condemning other women and their choices.

Corinne on

Not another Ava….. I’m SO incredibly bored with that name

JSmith on

Fiance? Really? That’s not what I heard as of late, but if that’s what she wants people to think, go for it. No wonder she didn’t specifically mention Greg. I also agree that its kind of hypocritical to say that kind of thing in a Catholic magazine; of course any baby is a gift from God, but that doesn’t make one before marriage necessarily okay in the theology of that religion (And hello, in todays world with all the birth control out there, there is simply no excuse). Its admirable that she kept the child, but that doesn’t make it okay to find and utilize every media outlet possible to draw attention to this fact and thus herself, keeping the limelight on her and creating a bigger spectacle than it needed to be. Plenty of unmarried young girls decide to keep and have their babies everyday; why is Ashley any different?