“A List of Fears” by River Adams

Issue 18 / Summer 2019 / Abortion Ban Protest Special Issue


I have never been asked, but I know people wonder if all adopted children have a fear of abandonment, if we are all just longing to be loved wherever we can find it. The thing is that I know that I am wanted. I know that I am loved. But my number of fears is the same as the number of people who love me.

I am afraid of never being able to connect with someone the way your dagger eyes connect with my bare skin, that I’ll never get beneath someone else’s. I want to see the face that’s made from the same cosmic dust. Not my soulmate, but the person who created my soul. I want to meet my god, who I know is a woman. I’m afraid I never will.

I am afraid of forgetting how to swim the next time I look into my mother’s deep-sea eyes when I’m angry and accuse her of not even being my “real mom.” I can’t remember a time I didn’t know I was adopted. I mean, I remember when my parents called my siblings and me into the kitchen for a family meeting and told us all at the same time, which felt wrong. But I feel like my life had started then, like anything I thought about myself before that didn’t really count. The conversations about it become fewer and more fleeting, but I’m always afraid of their questions. I’m afraid of giving a wrong answer.

I am scared of sex. I am afraid of growing up too quickly the way that she had to. I always want to be someone’s child. I am afraid to have children because I don’t want to decide too late that I can’t give them everything they need. I don’t even know how to take care of myself, how to give myself everything that I need. I don’t know how to be selfish with my love. I am afraid of being selfish. When I’m alone, I can watch hours of pregnancy reveal videos and cry hysterically, partly because I imagine the reveal of my mother’s pregnancy with me ended in a different kind of tears, and partly because I’m thinking about my own future. I am afraid of my future.

I am afraid of losing this choice. I’m afraid of my daughter having to follow through on having a daughter of her own if she inherits my fear of my own body. I’m afraid of raising a girl who sees her body as a line drawn with everyone she loves on either side of it. You can’t love something at the same time you’re afraid of it. You can’t love something without fitting yourself inside of it, the same way you stop being afraid. My mother is the only one who can get under my skin like she belongs here, living in me as naturally as blood does in veins.

I don’t think fear is the absence of love anymore. I think love is the cause.

I will not bleed for someone who wants to cut me open. I love myself too much.


River Adams is a writer and musician from New England. She is inspired by absolutely everything, with a craving for all things hard to talk about and difficult to describe. You can find her at riveradams.com or on Instagram, @ohshadows. Her first poetry collection Lacuna is available now.

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