‘It Takes a Mom’ interview series highlights our recent Mother of the Year® honorees by sharing their stories every week. These moms from across the country contribute to our collective voice as mothers. They show us how they harness their maternal energy and how it really does take a mom to do it all! Here’s our interview with Ciara Simonson, 2021 Virginia Mother of the Year®.
What does it mean to you to be selected Mother of the Year® for your state?
Well, it’s a huge honor. Let me just say, when I was first elected, it was an overwhelming feeling of ‘Wow, I’m representing the state of Virginia. No pressure.’ When I think about my journey as a mom, I would say that my story certainly reflects and represents the story of so many moms and women who have operated and lived in silence. The story of my daughter, who was an early pregnancy loss, is just one part of my story.
Going through the whole process of having to deliver a child knowing that she would not be able to sustain life was a great loss, but also going through that process and grieving that process gave me new life and the ability to be a voice for so many women who’ve experienced early pregnancy loss.Ciara Simonson, 2021 Virginia Mother of the Year®
For four or five years, my husband and I had the story of infertility, where we didn’t think we could have children. Then we had a daughter who is, I would say, our miracle. So it kind of came as a surprise that we would actually have a child and become parents. Shortly after, I was pregnant again with Trinity and that was a 20-week loss. Going through the whole process of having to deliver a child knowing that she would not be able to sustain life was a great loss. But also going through that process and grieving that process gave me new life and the ability to be a voice for so many women who’ve experienced early pregnancy loss. Following this, my son Emmanuel, who’s five years old now, was born at 28 weeks premature. I was a mom that was on bed rest at 18 weeks, just trying to sustain life, sitting with tension, hope, and fear—hope for life and the fear that he may not be able to make it.
I’m one in four women who experience this type of loss and it’s something that we really don’t hear often about, but it’s very real, it’s very prevalent. It’s also a major impact on relationship dynamics. So I say I represent and am a voice for those mothers, for those women, for those families, not only to help build awareness about the challenges that come with pregnancy— particularly early pregnancy and infant loss, or even prematurity—but also just being able to provide that story of hope, that there is life after death, or even when we are facing a death experience, there is life. So I continue to share the testimonies of miracles and of hope. My son had a lot of issues, a lot of challenges when he was born. Just being able to endure, to overcome some of those challenges, and to see how he’s able to live a full life right now, again, continues to give the story of a miracle, and a story of great hope for so many moms who may not have an opportunity to speak, to voice, or to even share some of their distress around those challenges.
What do you love most about being a mom?
Every day is a new discovery and I would say it’s like you kind of get a second chance at all the parts that you’ve missed out on. My daughter is always encouraging me to play more, so I say the second chance is to enjoy the moments of life and to see life through the eyes of a child. There’s so much that we can learn from children. They’re great teachers if we take the time to listen to them, to attend to them, to learn, and glean from what they’re sharing and showing us. So it’s one of my joys, as a parent, to really learn from my children and I would say that they have encouraged and shaped me to become a better pastor, a better leader, and an even better servant of my community. So I’d say I’m just a better person overall because I learned this concept of unconditional love—that was not real for me until I actually became a mom. I can forgive every single day, again, and again and again. So not only is forgiveness real for me, because this is what I do for my children, but now, it’s not only something that I say, but I know it, I love it, and I’m able to share that in the communities that I engage.
As a mother, what do you do to relax and unwind?
I am part of a few organizations that are connected with other moms, so we get it—mommy time and self-care, that’s not selfish. So just taking time to steal away when the kids go to grandma’s or go to aunty’s, and I get to have time to go get my hair washed. I love yoga. Yoga is something that that physical, meditative movement, I really, really enjoy. But also, I’m an extrovert. I love to socialize, so when I say connecting with other moms, where we can get together and just have adult conversation, that’s always a really, really good time.
How do you encourage your children to not give up and to keep pushing?
My daughter plays violin, and every single day, she’s giving up on the violin. It’s a continuous conversation of saying, ‘We practice, and we rehearse because we get better,’ and helping her to see the progress that she has made from the time she started to where she is now. So I use her as an example because it’s a continuous conversation, it’s helping her to see that the more you keep at it—if we can just make micro-movements—you will get better, and it becomes easier. So just reminding her of where she started. And it’s the same with reading and math. It’s ‘At first, it was just so overwhelming, but now you know your times table.’
Do you and your family get out in the community and make a difference in other people’s lives?
As I mentioned, I’m part of a few mom’s organizations, one is Jack and Jill of America, which is about helping to not only raise leaders but helping to raise leaders who are committed to serving in the community. So it’s about community service, but it’s engaging the children and teaching the children how to serve and be stewards of the communities that we engage in. It is my requirement, as a member of the organization, for my family to engage in community service projects. That’s just what we do. So moms hold the membership, but it’s for the children.
Ciara Simonson is an ordained minister with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and relationship counselor with the Imago Center of Washington D.C. Indicative of her compassion for humanity and commitment to helping others heal and grow, Ciara established herself as a dynamic speaker and pastoral counselor integrating her theological and clinical background. Ciara identifies herself as the “wounded healer” who shares her passion for healing by educating, encouraging, and empowering others to honor the full context of their life. Ciara received an M.Div. from Howard University and M.S. in Mental Health Counseling from Loyola University. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Jack and Jill of America, and Co-Founder of Love Works, which supports relationships and families creating connections through safe conversations. Ciara’s pride and greatest joy is engaging the fullness of life with her loving husband, Victor Simonson, while sharing the honor of parenting her daughter Victoria Grace, son Immanuel Justice, and carrying the memory of her angel baby, Trinity.
In the past few months, Ciara reached out to us to share the news of her family being on the road for the next year. This big decision came as her husband was invited to serve as the first African-American Conductor with the Hamilton And Peggy Touring Company. American Mothers asked Ciara to share a road diary of sorts every couple of months—the first of which you can read here!