Empowering Women,  Life,  Life As Navy Military Family

Through Thick ‘n Thin

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Over the last year, the quote “When Women support each other incredible things happen” has become a quote that I say several times a day and live by. I promote that quote daily to over 4,000 women from all around the world.

My name is Elizabeth Simmons. I am 26 years old, and I have two children (3 and 1). I’m currently in college and majoring in Criminal Justice in hopes that one day I can help be a part of a change. My husband has been active duty in the United States Marine Corps for almost six years and has high hopes and intentions of making a career out of the Marine Corps.

In February of 2017, barely two weeks after my husband deployed, I gave birth to our first child (daughter) at our first duty station in North Carolina. He met her seven months later after deployment.

We’re Having Another Baby

In 2018, I gave birth to our second child (son). My husband was in the field prior, but they thankfully got him to us pretty fast.

We had no intention of getting pregnant that soon, but clearly, it was in the cards, and we’re so thankful that it was. Our son was originally due to make his arrival in September of 2018, but instead, he came a month early. We also were due to PCS in October.

Everything was crazy and has changed from the moment I got to that hospital and got put in a room. I had sat and was waiting to be checked out because a few days prior I had gone in because I thought I was leaking, and I was sent home and told I wasn’t.

I went back because I knew something was going on, sure enough, I was in labor. A nurse walks in, and she has an IV machine, and I asked her what was going on. She said, “we’re having a baby.” I said, “WHAT?!” and I instantly started crying because I had so many things planned to do with my first born before her brother made his arrival and that’s probably when it began.

My husband moments later comes through the door and he thinks the worse because of how bad I was crying until I was able to get myself together and tell him that we’re having a baby today.

After over 24 hours in labor, I gave birth to a 6-pound 1 ounce little boy.

I fell in love all over again.

I Was Scared and Very Concerned

They took him and done everything they had to do, but once he was cleaned and back with me, I asked: “what is wrong with his eyelid” because some of it was missing. They had no answers, so naturally, I was scared and very concerned.

That added to it.

The morning came, and I asked the same question again. A doctor was sent in and he told us that our son had what is called a “coloboma eyelid” and that it’s somewhat rare. The doctor fully admitted that he had never seen it before and that he couldn’t give us much information on it. He also told us that our brand-new little baby could be blind in the eye.

That added to it.

Hours later, another doctor comes in to tell us that our son has a heart murmur and until he’s seen by a pediatric cardiologist that we won’t know if it’s innocent or something to worry about.

That added to it.

There was nothing the hospital that he was born at could do for us and since he was born at 6 pounds 1 ounce with no other medical conditions/needs that they could treat, we were released.

Despite everything, we were so happy to be going home but even as happy as it was, the world was on my shoulders. Every day I sat and worried about my son, as I watched my daughter become so fond of him and become an awesome big sister, as I watched his father hold him and talk to him, as I nursed him and looked down at his little face, I constantly worried on what we would be told.

This added to it.

As soon as we got home from the hospital, I got on Google and I started looking for the best pediatric heart doctor that I could find in North Carolina. And I began calling pediatric ophthalmologists throughout North Carolina to find one that had seen a case like my sons at his age.

I wasn’t having much luck.

I finally found one that had seen a case, but it was during his residency and the child wasn’t a newborn at the time he saw it. I knew that my son needed to be seen and since he had seen a case, I scheduled an appointment for him to be seen in Raleigh, North Carolina, about 2 hours or so from where we were stationed and the soonest appointment was in September.

Over a month away.

I then started searching for someone else in this world that could tell me more about this because a month seemed like forever.

Social Media Truly Can be a Saving Grace

Social media truly can be a saving grace because I found a page dedicated to those who have “Colobomas,” but when I got in the group most of the members there had colobomas on their actual eye.

I decided to search the group. I typed in the group’s search bar “coloboma eyelid,” and I found a woman in Texas who also was looking for someone. The post was years old, but I commented to let her know I was messaging her.

I messaged her and she started answering everything that she could. Her son also was born with a “Coloboma Eyelid” but had since had surgery.

She showed me before and after photos and that eased my mind some, but of course, she wasn’t able to ease my mind on if my son was blind or not because he had to be checked for that. She’s since become a really good friend and we have plans on meeting one day.

Everything Happens For a Reason

They say everything happens for a reason; our son came a month early because if he hadn’t come a month early, then I would’ve been giving birth during Hurricane Florence.

Instead, I was sobbing on the floor of the home I brought both our babies’ home to and was packing what I could of our children’s mostly and loading it in my SUV preparing for our evacuation and being told my husband possibly couldn’t evacuate with us.

This added to it.

That evening he finally received a text that he could evacuate with us, so we loaded more of our children’s stuff into my husband’s car.

The next day we loaded our sweet babies into my SUV, and as I started pulling out with my husband in his car behind me, I looked back and seen my babies in their mirrors, my husband in his car, and the home that we made so many memories in and it was like a million images of all the memories replayed through my mind.

This added to it.

After a very long drive due to traffic from everyone evacuating, we made it safely to my home state.

An 8-hour drive was a 14-hour drive and during the whole drive, I couldn’t stop thinking about everything that was happening in our lives.

This added to it.

So Much Was Being Ruined From All the Damage

We stayed with my father for a few days, but it wasn’t a very pleasant stay, nor was there much support from him while we were receiving updates during the hurricane that our ceilings were collapsing, and so much was being ruined from all the damage.

This added to it.

We got a hotel about an hour from my father to ride out the rest of the evacuation. As each day passed, our already drained banking account got worse and worse. We used most of our emergency fund when our son came a month early to finish preparing for him, and then the rest to evacuate.

We were falling in debt and really fast.

This added to it.

Finally, after over 3 weeks of being evacuated, my husband got word on when to report back and right in time for our son’s appointment. So we called to reserve a hotel room in Raleigh and decided we would ride the rest of the days out in Raleigh.

Little did we know those days were going to turn into weeks.

We arrived in Raleigh and took our son to his appointment and was told at the current time he did not show signs of blindness but if his eye wasn’t surgically fixed in the future, then he could potentially go blind.

While the news was good that he wasn’t blind in his eye at the current time was absolutely amazing news, the news that he could potentially go blind in the future scared me to death.

This added to it.

After his appointment, we headed back to the hotel and packed up to head home. The drive back was gut-wrenching as we passed flooded areas, places destroyed, people’s belongings already tossed to the side of the road for bulk pick up.

It Was Heartbreaking

We pulled into our driveway and the feeling of relief that we normally felt when arriving home from a trip wasn’t there. Instead, it was a horrible feeling.

Once we got inside, we started looking over the damage more and more. Ceilings collapsed in most rooms upstairs and completely ruined so much of our belongings.

It was heartbreaking; mold had already begun to spread as well. The ceilings in our garage came down and inside that garage held so much of passed down family décor from my sweet mother who passed away when I was only 5 from 3 types of cancer.

All that added to it.

The AC unit was entirely shot, and it was so hot.

We knew at that moment there was absolutely nothing we could do so we started calling hotels nearby to book a room till we could figure out what to do.

We called every single hotel in the nearby radius and not a single room was available. The closest room we found was back in Raleigh, North Carolina. That was around a 130-mile drive one way for my husband, and I just knew that we were about to fall even further in debt.

This added to it.

I spent most of my days in the hotel room with my kids, ordering Door Dash and trying to make the best of the situation but to be honest, I was drowning. I was screaming inside. My children’s god mom’s mother reached out to us and offered for us to stay with her at her house which was much closer than we were but still a commute.

At first, I tried talking myself out of accepting the offer because I didn’t want to feel like a burden to anyone, especially when I felt like a burden to my own self at the time.

She insisted, and she wasn’t taking no for an answer.

This helped it.

That Hug Hit Differently

We got to her home and she, like many other times scoops my kids up in her arms and then finally gives me a hug. That hug hit differently that time, and to be honest, I knew I needed to be there with her.

We finally were told where we would be PCSing and it wasn’t where we originally were expected to go but due to the issues we were facing, they couldn’t send us to the original place that we had hoped and asked for. Instead, we were being sent to Virginia. I was not happy in the slightest.

This added to it.

The days I spent with my children’s god mother’s mom were some of the only days I felt like I could breathe, but even then, I still was choking it seemed. She knew something was wrong because she did the absolute most to make sure I felt welcomed, safe, etc.

I Was Suffering

By now, you’re probably wondering, “what is it.” And some of you maybe even have figured it out. I, like many other military spouses and women, in general, was suffering silently with PPD (postpartum depression).

I knew that I couldn’t get help though, or so I thought.

We were so badly in debt at this point that I felt I couldn’t get help because I felt that if they put me on some sort of medication and it messed with my milk supply that I wouldn’t be able to produce enough milk for my son to feed him. I am not against formula feeding in the slightest, but I knew we couldn’t afford it at the moment. I feared being judged for even saying I had PPD, so I kept silent.

We returned one evening to our home to load up what was savable to take to storage until the movers could pick it up. We couldn’t find a single storage unit, but thankfully one of my husband’s Marines offered to store it in his garage. This was such a relief after having to throw over half of our stuff away because it was ruined.

The movers came a few days later and the day to leave North Carolina had arrived. I wasn’t ready to say “see you later” but the kids gave “grandma Renee” love. I hugged her and cried and she said, “you can always come home whenever you need to” this hit me so deep. She knew.  She knew I was silently suffering; I didn’t know it at the time that she knew until I finally “woke up” from PPD.

To this day I will never be able to thank her for everything she done for not only me but my family. Upon arriving at our new duty station, I was anxious to see our home.

Due to the debt we had fallen in we decided base housing was the best route for us. We were told we would get our keys whenever we arrived. I thought maybe things would begin to look up. We made sure to arrive before the housing office closed so we could get our keys. When we arrived and started talking to the lady, she told us that we didn’t have a home. Those words hit me like a ton of bricks.

This added to it.

I Felt Like I Was Failing My Kids

I really didn’t even ask any questions; I was so numb that I couldn’t. I looked down at my kids and I felt like I was failing them. I felt like the worse mommy alive.

How could these kids be going through this when I promised them the best life.

How could we be homeless?

When would the bad news end?

My husband stayed to talk to the lady at the housing office as I loaded our kids in the car. He came out with good news. He said we would for sure have a house in 10 days, maybe even less. I was stoked because we had the ten days in a hotel that would be paid for, and after that, we’d have a home, and I wouldn’t have to stress about more debt.

Ten days went by, more horrible food, and more feeling so alone. I couldn’t figure out how I felt so alone when I had these beautiful children with me, my husband. I thought I was selfish.

We called to figure out when we could come by the housing office, but instead of being told to come by, we were told, “We still don’t have a home for you and it looks like we won’t have one till January possibly February of 2019.” I was literally destroyed.

This added to it.

We then decided that we would just stay at the hotel we were at and hope for the best. I called every single day just in case, and every day we got the same answer.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore I knew something had to be done because I couldn’t keep living in a hotel room, it was making my PPD so much worse, and I felt so bad for my kids not living a normal life. I started browsing houses for rent nearby, I finally found one and I put in our application, a couple of hours later I received a phone call saying we were denied. That was it, I cried, I cried some more, and I binged on a bunch of junk food.

A couple of hours later, my phone rings, I answer it and a woman says, “Mrs. Simmons.” I said, “yes.” She said, “this is (name) not shared due to privacy, from Lincoln Military Housing. How are you?” I told her that I wasn’t good and I told her why. She then said, “well, I’m sorry that happened, but I’m sitting here with your husband and I’m calling to see if you want to accept a house.” I started bawling my eyes out again. I couldn’t even speak. I heard her ask my husband, “I take it as a yes?” and I said, “Yes. Omg, yes!!”

For the first time in so long, I was able to breathe.

They told us the house number and I loaded the kids up and I met up with my husband so we could see our home.

I cried again.

That night was the last night we spent in a hotel room. We went and bought an air mattress and some temporary stuff till our household goods could arrive from storage. I didn’t even care that I was giving up a comfortable hotel bed for an air mattress.

That first day and night in our empty house were so good. Then our household goods arrived, and we had all our stuff that was saved after the hurricane. I was so excited to have all my clothes back.

As days went by, we turned an empty house into a full house. We decided to go out to eat one evening, and I was excited to finally be able to have other clothing options than what I had packed.

As I tried things on, I kept thinking, “wow, this fits differently, so did this.” I told my husband, “I think the dryer is shrinking our clothes, “he responded with a “yeah, I believe so,” but he knew that wasn’t true. I didn’t though.

I Continued With The Same Eating Behaviors

I continued with the same eating behaviors. We went to the park one day, and walking down a hill put me out of breath. Trying to play with my daughter at the park exhausted me after 5 minutes. Walking back up our hill was even worse.

What’s going on with me months went by and one evening when I went to the bathroom, I caught a glimpse of myself, and I was shocked, I started crying my eyes out. I didn’t know who the person was that was looking back at me. I called for my husband, and he knew that I finally realized, and he just hugged me as tight as he could.

The Day I Woke Up From A Long Nightmare

That day was the day I woke up from a long nightmare known as Postpartum Depression.

I said, “get ready, let’s go to Walmart.”

I bought a scale.

We came home, and I was scared to step on that scale.

I could barely believe my eyes, 296 pounds.

The next day I had to go to the doctor because I felt that I had a UTI.

Scale time and it was 296 as well, I cringed.

I was right. I had a UTI. He sent me home with some meds. A few days passed, and I felt so weak, so tired, I had chills, hot flashes, headaches, dizziness, I felt like I was dying.

I dealt with this for a couple of days, then one night something was severely wrong. I felt like my body was shutting down. My husband said, “you look really bad,” and I did. I looked lifeless almost.

He rushed me to the hospital. They checked my temperature and next thing I know they’re rushing me to the back, I wasn’t even fully checked in yet. They’re being so loud. I’m so dizzy, I’m in and out. They’re asking me if I have medical conditions, I said “no,” am I on medication, “yes, I have a UTI,” how long…. I can’t think my head is pounding, a week or so I finally answer.

They’re rushing me to do scans. They find a huge infection in my body … it’s all throughout my body. I’m being jammed with needles and they’re pushing antibiotics because they said my body doesn’t have time to wait for an IV to drip them in.

Through thick n thin my weight loss journey

I Almost Died

I’m feeling like I’m on an episode of Greys Anatomy with how dramatic this is.

Hours later, I wake up in a hospital room with a doctor sitting in a chair. He said, “how do you feel?” I said, “like I died and came back to life.”

He said, “you almost did.” He said I had sat here just watching. I thought well that’s a little creepy.

He said you’re a walking miracle. He said what I’m about to say, you need to take to heart, I said okay. He said I’m going to be blunt but you need to hear this.

“You’re 25 ( I was at the time ) and you’re morbidly obese, if you don’t change your ways then you possibly could die sooner rather than later, today you almost lost your life because the medication wasn’t doing its job because your body was rejecting it because of the amount of fat you have.”

I just looked at him. I said I understand.

The next few days laying in the hospital bed was an eye-opener for me, I missed my kids. It was the first time I had ever been away from them. I started thinking about my family’s medical history, how my life was growing up without my mother who passed from cancer when I was 5, my father’s current health conditions, the list goes on.

I Promised My Kids I Would Live For Them

The day I walked out of that hospital I knew what had to be done.

June 22nd, 2019, I began going to our housing gym, barely able to walk on a treadmill for 5 minutes but I still did it.

I went for a few days but realized it wasn’t for me, but I couldn’t give up. I promised my kids I would live for them. I then started dance fitness in my living room and really loved it. I looked like a fool doing it and I hated seeing my reflection in the tv, but I kept on going.

I cleaned up my eating habits, started charting my foods, learning healthy habits. In December I ran for the first time and I started going back to the gym. Throughout all those months I built a Facebook group called “Thick N Thin” there are women from all over the world inside this group, from military spouses, to active duty females, to veterans, to women who aren’t affiliated at all and all these women are truly some of the best women I have ever had the privilege to interact with. We built a community together because so many women suffer in silence from so much. We’re all on our own levels with our own goals but we all have one thing in common and that’s uplifting each other while working on our own selves.

We share our success, our failures, our meals, our workouts, and just so much support. I’m thankful for my lifestyle change because it gave me my life back, it gave my kids a healthier mom, my husband who knew I was suffering but knew I would refuse help so he lied to me about our dryer, his wife back.

It has made me grow as a human.

It has created a community of amazing women of all shapes, sizes, colors, backgrounds that help bring out the best in one another.

I Gained My Life Back

Today its July 16th, 2020, and I have lost 146 pounds since beating PPD and almost losing my life from being morbidly obese. While I’ve lost a whole lot of weight, I gained a whole lot of knowledge, passion, strength, love for not only myself but for others that I don’t even know, and most of all …. I gained my life back and became a better person.

We often don’t lift each other up anymore, we don’t hear other problems, and if we do, then we often judge them. This is especially bad in the military spouse world. Thick N Thin means just that, no matter where you are, whether its losing weight, managing your current weight, or bulking. There’s a group of women who will make sure you know you can do it through Thick N Thin because positive community is needed.

Author Bio:

Elizabeth Simmons is a 26 years old, mother of two children (3 and 1), she’s currently in college and majoring in Criminal Justice in hopes that one day she can help be a part of a change. Her husband has been active duty in the United States Marine Corps for almost 6 years and has high hopes and intentions of making a career out of the Marine Corps.

You can find sharing support and positivity in her FABulous group Thick n Thin. They post recipes, workouts, motivation, support, and have created a positive atmosphere for women who are trying to be the healthiest version of themselves.

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