August 25, 2007 02:11 PM

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.   

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