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Have you ever thought much about the expression “it’s time to rattle someone’s cage?” I have to confess, I hadn’t either. Then I came across the expression in the context of an experiment involving rats in cages. As it turns out, when a rat’s cage is rattled without warning or in a manner that is unpredictable, the rat’s stress level rises. 

This seems like a topic completely unrelated to adoption. And at first glance, it is. 

But what is predictable about adoption? 

Waiting adoptive parents can’t predict when they will be picked, what the relationship will be like, or even if the expectant mother is going to place.

Expectant parents can’t predict how they will feel as the pregnancy progresses. Expectant parents can’t predict what the adoptive parents will be like.

Let’s face it. Adoption is unpredictable. 

Back to the rattled cages. Unpredicted cage rattling causes stress levels to rise, including a physiological response that impacts the wiring in the brain. Interestingly enough, if those same rats could predict when their cages would be rattled, they did not have the same indicators of stress. Their bodies and brains could expect that particular disruption, understand it was temporary, and then move on. What researchers found is that the brain can tolerate stress if it is predictable, but even mild stressful events are intolerable to the brain if they are “very unpredictable.” (Childhood Disruptedby Donna Jackson Nakazawa, page 42.)

Some of the things you can do to alleviate the stress associated with the unpredictable nature of adoption include staying in close communication with people you trust. Check in regularly with your team that is helping create your adoption. Do your research—whether it’s related to drugs, race, or ongoing communication.  

So how are you coping with the unpredictability of adoption? Don’t let the stress of unpredictability really rattle your cage.

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