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Finding strength in love and unity

Contessa has never felt this good in a long time. A mother of four, she has struggled with alcohol and substance use for most of her life. Contessa grew up in an unstable household, where drugs and alcohol were always present.
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​Contessa & Souliesta getting ready to leave the hospital to start new life.

​Nearly 40 years old, Contessa feels she has a second chance to get things right. This is the first time she’s been clean and sober since she was 25 years old. She first heard about Fir Square Combined Care Unit six years ago when she was pregnant with her third child. She was told by women who have gone through the program that it’s safe, a good place to be and they won’t take your baby away from you. One of her friends who had been through the program was a heroin addict and the last time Contessa saw her, she was in jail. She didn’t think her friend was going to make it and live. That friend is now clean and sober for over five years, and Contessa thought to herself: ‘if she can do it, anybody can do it, and certainly, I can do it.’

Unfortunately, Contessa wasn’t able to get into the program due to limited space and made the difficult decision to give her baby up for adoption, as she knew she wouldn’t be able to properly care for her newborn daughter. When Contessa found out she was unexpectedly pregnant the fourth time around, she knew she needed to get into Fir, and went so far as to see the Mayor to ensure that she would be admitted to the program.

The good news came via a woman named Chris while Contessa was staying at Tent City; she was informed that there was a room available for her. While Contessa was a patient at Fir, she found out she was diabetic and was prescribed insulin. She had no idea she was diabetic; being at Fir allowed her to receive the proper health care she needed, as hard as it was, she changed her diet to keep her and her growing baby healthy. She was surprised how the nurses and doctors took such great care of her, she felt like she mattered and strived to do better and stay clean and sober for her baby.

On November 28, 2017, Contessa delivered a healthy baby girl via emergency C-section and named her Souliestia. She also made the decision to have her tubes removed during the C-section, noting that she’s had enough children at almost 40. Had she not been at Fir, Contessa doesn’t know where she would be today. Knowing that her and Souliestia can be a family has given the strength for Contessa to overcome her addictions and work towards a better life for both her and Souliestia.

“Fir has given me serenity. I feel good and love myself completely,” says Contessa. “It’s sad this is the only one in the world of its kind, where so many women need this help and attentive care.”

Contessa participated in art therapy, received the support she required through counselling, and felt like she had people on her side when the nurses took the time to listen and how the social worker helped to ensure that she and Souliestia could stay together.

Contessa is eager to start her new life and thinks that her family will be proud of her. She hopes to reconnect with her two eldest daughters and introduce them to their little sister. The care she received at Fir has given Contessa the strength to be a full-time mom, live life to the fullest and give the love her children deserves from her. This Family Day, Contessa will be able to celebrate the occasion with Souliestia. She is grateful that her family can stay intact and has plans to move to Salt Spring Island, where Contessa has fond memories of when she was growing up. Contessa hopes to share with Souliesta her love of camping and nature and looks forward to the future.


Learn more about Fir Square Combined Care Unit.

BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre; Substance use; pregnancy; Fir Square
Children's Health; Women's Health
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