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Kahleah is torn between two countries


Leceta Chisholm Guibault

Kahleah in Mayan huipil
Kahleah in Mayan huipil.
Kahleah at home
Kahleah at home.
Kahleah has given me permission to share this with you. (She is such a neat kid. She really wants to help parents with younger children by adoption understand how they "might" feel.)

Ever since Kahleah was a toddler our best conversations have taken place in the car. Recently Kahleah and I shared a three hour drive to Ottawa. She was to visit my brother; I had meetings.

We talked about school, sports, travel. She also talked about her "need" to visit Guatemala again soon. We were just there in July! Her first visit was in 2003. She told me she could "feel Guatemala" in her blood. She has such a strong connection to her foster family and misses them terribly. I don't blame her. Their love for her is obvious. She knows she has a home, a place in Guatemala.

Kahleah also said how she sometimes felt torn between her two countries (it doesn't help when it's Canada vs Guatemala in soccer!). She has a love for both. She said she dreams of someday spending six months a year in Guatemala and the other six months in Canada.

Kahleah also shared with me a sense of often feeling like "two people": Kahleah Guibault ... the anglophone/francophone grade 8, high-honour-roll student. A girl with money in the bank, her own room and everything she needs. Then there is Maria de Lourdes. A very smart girl who most likely would never have had a chance to go to school. Would lack medical care. Suffer from poverty ...

She didn't go into too much more detail as to how she imagined her life might have been in Guatemala but after reading her birthmother's social history report and two visits to Guatemala I know she has a keen sense of reality.

Kahleah gave me an example of what it feels like to be her. She reminded me of how, a few days before, she was rather exasperated when her beloved CD player broke. She announced "Mommy! I need a new CD player!". I said, "Well ... your birthday is coming up ... ". Out of character Kahleah stomped her foot and said, "But I need one now!".

As she reminded me of this "conversation" I remembered my past thought of, "Gosh ... she seems a little ... spoiled!". Kahleah shared with me that after her little demand she had stomped into her room, sat down and all of a sudden remembered Maria de Lourdes. She told me that she was embarrassed by her demand for a new CD player. I told her not to be, but she said she often imagines life in Guatemala and how "good" her life is here. She told me she wonders, "Why me? Why am I so lucky?". I asked her if she felt it was "lucky" to be adopted. She thought about this. It is not so much to be "adopted" but to be safe, have a family, be loved, have a childhood, enough to eat, not live in poverty and especially ... to have an education.

Kahleah, foster mother and grandmother, July 2004
Kahleah with her foster mother and foster grandmother, July 2004.
Kahleah told me about a movie she had seen the weekend before; "Coach Carter" I believe. She told me she was bothered by a scene where a young couple (students?) are faced with an unplanned pregnancy. She told me only two options were discussed. Abortion or raising the child. Raising the child meant the young man would loose his basketball scholarship to university (her words). The couple chose abortion. Kahleah asked, "Why is adoption rarely an option? It would be a great message if adoption had been an option!" (Kahleah has her own strong views on adoption and abortion). She then took the movie discussion back to her own adoption story. She compared the plight of the young girl in the movie to her own birthmother and the issues both faced and their options. She had a lot more sympathy for her birthmother and praises her for making such a difficult and painful decision on her behalf.

I am so glad that Kahleah can easily share her thoughts and experiences. I think her feelings are perfectly natural and quite healthy. She never seems confused about who she is ... she is Kahleah Maria de Lourdes.

My girl also expressed a deep desire to "make a difference". She told me that it is frustrating because she is "only one person" (well, two if you count Maria de Lourdes! :o) I told her the story of the "it made a difference to that one" (was it about a starfish on the beach? I would love to find a copy of the original story ... ) and she loved my version. She helped sell blankets for Gregory's blanket project in Guatemala over the holidays. She sold over 150. She hoped for more but I told her to imagine just one child in Guatemala, warm at night with their new blanket. "It made a difference for that child ... ".

I hope Kahleah's willingness to share will also make a difference for one of your children. I know she has helped me understand my second child better!
Leceta is mother to Kahleah (Guatemala, 1991) and Tristan (Colombia, 1994). Leceta and husband Jean and family live in Joliette, near Montreal. She is a board member of the Adoption Council of Canada and the Federation of Quebec Adoptive Parents, and moderator of the email list Canadians-Adopting (

Copyright 2006 Leceta Chisholm Guibault,

First published at Family Helper, on Oct. 4, 2006.


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