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True Story: I Accidentally, Unexpectedly Gave Birth At Home

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, challenging, amazing things. This is the story of Aya and her unexpected home birth.

Tell us a bit about yourself!
I am an almost-thirty year old mom of three living in Toronto. I work in administration at an NGO I am passionate about. I love cooking for my family, stalking ASOS for new arrivals, refreshing my Feedly reader, and watching movies with the subtitles turned on. I speak three languages and there is a 90% chance I am taller than you. I blog, too!

What was your pregnancy like? 
It was my first pregnancy. It was a very stressful time as I had just gotten married, moved to a new home, and gotten a new job at the same time as getting pregnant. Medically, it was uneventful except for crushing, debilitating, “morning sickness.” I suffered from nausea and vomiting all day long from the beginning of the pregnancy up to and including the birth. I recall vomiting in wastebaskets at work and in my lunch bag on the bus.
How did you imagine the birth going? 
I tried to avoid imagining it! I was so preoccupied with other things going on in my life at that time that I did not even have a hospital bag packed when I went into labor. I wanted to deliver in my hospital, but I did not want an epidural. Besides for my concerns about their side effects, I am utterly terrified of needles. Having to stick a needle in my back is much scarier to me than giving birth.
Tell us about the night before you gave birth.
I was 37 weeks along in my pregnancy and I had just stopped working the day before. That night we celebrated our first wedding anniversary. My husband and I went out to eat at a Middle Eastern eatery and ate a delicious meal of greasy shawarma and fries. Afterward, we invited our family over to our home for drinks and a triple chocolate cake. We had a great time together and I went to sleep feeling wonderful.
When you woke up feeling sick, what did you think was happening?
I woke up at around 6 am with a churning, crushing pain in my stomach. I woke my husband up and told him that I must have gotten food poisoning from the sketchy restaurant the night before. He said that he didn’t feel anything amiss and it would probably pass if I got some rest. I tried to go back to sleep, but the pain just kept getting worse.
At what point did you call for help? When did you realize you were actually in labor?
I called my mom around 10 am and asked her to come over. At that point, I was stuck on the toilet, vomiting nonstop. I was afraid to leave the bathroom because kept feeling like I needed to poop. Sitting on the toilet felt more comfortable than any other position. After a couple of hours of this, my mom tried to convince me to call an ambulance but I wouldn’t hear of it. I think my exact words were, “I refuse to get up from this toilet ever again.” I refused to accept that I was in labor. It was three weeks too early, my water hadn’t broken, and the pain did not feel like contractions.
Was it scary giving birth without any medical help?
I am extremely fortunate that my mom is an MD though not an obstetrician. Eventually, she dragged me off the toilet and ordered me to lie down on my bed. It was just in time as she saw the baby’s head crowning. She called 911 on my cell phone. Believe it or not, they told her to push the baby back into the birth canal and wait for the paramedics! She ignored them and told me to push. A few minutes later my daughter was born and my mother caught her.
It actually didn’t feel any more frightening than giving birth with medical help, which I did two more times in the hospital. What this experience taught me is that on a fundamental level, a woman’s body knows how to give birth without outside intervention. I felt safe at home with my mother by my side, and I had no preconceived fears or notions about what should happen or what I must do. In this respect, it was possibly even less scary than my subsequent births.
What happened after help arrived?
Right after my daughter was born, an army of emergency personnel showed up. The firefighters were the first to arrive and they were very happy and excited for me. They cut the cord and wrapped up me and the baby in warming blankets. The paramedics and police officers arrived next. The paramedics checked me, put the baby on me to breastfeed, and stabilized us both in preparation for transport to hospital. A male paramedic scolded me in the ambulance for not getting to the hospital quicker. The nurses and doctors in the hospital seemed quite surprised that I had managed to have a healthy baby all on my own! I feel so blessed that this story had such a happy ending.
I’m sure this is a story your child will be telling for the rest of their life! What does she think about it?
She is still young enough that she doesn’t really comprehend the details yet. We live in a different home now and she likes to point out the apartment building where she was born when we drive by. She knows that most babies are born in the hospital and she feels being born at home is special. I imagine the story will be more interesting to her when she gets older. I hope it inspires her to consider an unmedicated, natural childbirth when she has children.

Thanks so much for sharing, Aya! Do you guys have any questions for her? Do any of you have non-traditional birth stories? My partner delivered his youngest son in a bathtub because they couldn’t get to the hospital in time!

True Story: My 8-Year-Old Daughter Dresses Exclusively Like A Boy

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, challenging, amazing things. This is the story of Stasia and her daughter Raisa who only wears ‘boy’ clothes.

Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m a 40-year-old momma with two wildly beautiful kids (2 and 8) and a wicked handsome social worker husband, living the good life in Vermont. Last year, I threw caution and pragmatism to the wind, quit my job, and started a biz as a Personal Stylist, and have never looked back. I had no choice… my daughter made me do it 🙂
Tell us about your daughter. 
Raisa is an 8 years old kid with incredible style 🙂 She’s sassy, bold, cool and charismatic… just not in the way I had envisioned when I was planning out what life would be like with a baby girl. She was born with “special needs”. She’s had hundreds of doctor’s appointments, has been under anesthesia over a dozen times, and sleeps with a c-pap machine every night. She loves to ski, bike, fish, and swim. She would wear a suit jacket and bow tie to school every single day if her closet was abundant enough to support her desires. She’s tough, gentle, bold, sensitive… and she loves her brother more than anything on earth.
At what age did she start wanting to dress like a boy? 
She started trending toward boy clothes around 3 years old, but I didn’t make much of it at the time. I could still get her in dresses though admittedly it was a battle. As she neared 6 years old, we would have throw-down fights around her wardrobe. I would get crazy upset when she outright REF– USED to wear the super fun, cute, whimsical clothes I had purchased for her.You see, Raisa looks different than other kids, and I thought I could combat the inevitable bullying if she wore hip clothes and looked ridiculously cute all the time. Plus, after years of hospital visits and hundreds of doctor’s appointments, I was exhausted, and couldn’t imagine navigating and challenging the roles of gender in our society. I just wanted things to be regular. You know, easy.
What make you change your mind and buy her first shirt and tie?
We were shopping at our local thrift store, and she asked me (as she’s done a million times) to help her look for a “boy” shirt and tie. I said no. She’d had enough “no” from me, so she walked up to the counter and asked the cashier to help her look in the kid’s section for a shirt and tie. They did, and they found the most dreadful Walmart looking shirt and tie combo I had ever seen.I couldn’t say no since the cashier was the one who presented it to me – so I begrudgingly paid $3 for the combo and figured I’d just re-donate it the following day. I wish I could say I “changed my mind”, but unfortunately it wasn’t a selfless act, and I didn’t let go of my antiquated belief systems for another couple of hours…
How did she react when she put on her shirt and tie for the first time?
As soon as we got home from the thrift store, she immediately put on the shirt and tie and stood in front of the mirror. When she first saw her reflection, she became motionless and said to me in a whisper, “Mama, look how handsome I look.” Then she bolted across the dining room and said, “Mama, Mama, look how fast I can run!” and then she jumped and said, “Mama, look how much higher I can jump when I’m wearing a shirt and tie!”I just stood there, ashamed, shocked and in disbelief. She could run faster and jump higher when she was wearing clothes on the outside that reflected who she was on the inside. Though I understood the sentiment of “authentic style” to a degree, she articulated it in a way that knocked my socks off. The lesson was profound, and it changed the trajectory of my life.
Does she ‘dress like a boy’ every day now? 
Every. Single. Day. And most days she’s wearing a bow tie and a blazer 🙂 She’s unstoppable.
How have the people in your life reacted to her fashion choices?
They LOVE it! In fact, she’s become a bit of a local sensation in her bow ties and neckties. Believe it or not, I haven’t heard one single person say anything cross about her boy-like presentation. Pretty amazing, don’t you think?
How do other kids react to her choices?
Great question!! Kids are a wee bit confused… “Is Raisa a boy or a girl?” Even her classmates that have known her for years have questioned whether she’s a boy or a girl. But other than that, it’s no big deal. And honestly, Raisa thinks it’s cool that she looks and dresses like a boy but IS a girl.
Has she made any comments about wishing she was a boy? Or does it seem like her interest ends at wearing clothes that are traditionally male?
This is tricky territory. She acts like a boy, dresses like a boy and stays far away from anything girl because “What if people think I’m a girl?” BUT, she’s never said she wishes she were a boy, and trust me, we’ve asked. She has said over and over that she’s happy that she’s a girl, but just likes everything boy, and likes that people think she’s a boy. She loves that her brother calls her “sissy” and loves her very feminine name. So for now, we’re allowing her to lead the conversation and we’ll just keep checking in, supporting her, and loving her.
Raisa has taken the gender binary and tipped it upside down. She resonates with both “boy” and “girl,” and is at ease in that place of “in between”. Gender, it turns out, is a continuum, and she understands that better than most.
Has this changed the way you think about gender? Parenting? Fashion?
It’s changed the way I think about everything!! And I mean EVERYTHING.
I was in the beginning, contemplative stages of starting my biz as a personal stylist when the shirt and tie incident happened. In that moment, my purpose became clear, and my message of “Inside-Out Congruency” became my life’s work. When I meet with clients, the first and absolute most important thing I do is help them figure out who they are on the inside so that we can reflect that on the outside. I want every woman in the world to “run faster and jump higher”.
And really, this philosophy of Inside-Out Congruency transcends everything! Allowing and supporting those around us to fully live in their truest place and space will create a world with greater harmony and less of the us vs them.
What’s one thing you’ve learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives? 
I’ve learned that belief systems and inflexible plans can be dangerous, and the tighter we hold on to them, the more tumultuous and unstable our lives become. Before Raisa was born, my husband and I had crafted and created a wanderlust lives for ourselves and our soon-to-be family. But the moment she was born, we had to say goodbye to our grand plan because now her life was on the line and we needed to plant ourselves near her big city hospital. We settled in Vermont, created community, and have never looked back.

When she was born, I envisioned she would be this hip, sweet, funky, charismatic girl who loved shimmer and sparkle, despite her differences… and this is also something I’ve had to let go of. All those years that I fought, refused and rejected the notion that my daughter was more “boy” than “girl” resulted in nothing more than battle wounds – for both of us. I’ve learned that letting go and flexibility release our hearts from tension and makes space for profound love.

Thank you so, so much for sharing this sweet story, Stasia. Do you guys have any (polite!) questions for her?

True Story: I’m A 35-year-old Virgin + I Intend To Stay That Way

his is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Kat and why she doesn’t ever plan to have sex.
Tell us a bit about yourself! 
I was born in Maryland. I now reside in Virginia. I’m 34 years old (almost 35). I work from home for a Fortune 500 company. For fun I listen to music, read, knit, spend time in nature, travel, and watch
Growing up, how did you think about romance? 
My parents separated when I was 8 years old. I didn’t see any romance or fighting. I only heard one argument while they were together. When I read romantic books or watched movies, I knew the female character would never be me. I would never have a prince charming. I knew that from a very young age. I told my mom when I was 8 that I would get married at 88 years old. Now I say I’m never getting married.
What’s your romantic history like?
I wasn’t allowed to date while I was growing up. I was asked on one date in high school. I wasn’t attracted to the guy so I came up with some excuse as to why I couldn’t go out with him. I have been
attracted to guys over the years but never in a sexual way.
I briefly dated one guy 15 years ago. We went on a date to Taco Bell! lol. It was a one-time thing. It didn’t end well. He kept talking about sex and I knew I didn’t want to do it so when I got the chance to escape, I did. I left him stranded at his friends house. (I was the one driving).
Other than that, I have never kissed anyone or been kissed. I have not gone on a date since then. I haven’t even been hugged by a male (except maybe once or twice by my dad).
How do you feel when you think about sex?
When I think about doing it, it repulses me. Not to sound immature but “ewww” is the best way to describe it. Genitalia disturbs me.
Do you think you’re asexual?
Yes, I probably am. The attraction is sort of there, but I have no interest in sex. I’ve known since I was about 10 that I would never have sex. I don’t know how I knew, but I just knew I didn’t want to do it.
Do the people in your life know about this?
I think my family thinks I’m a virgin or maybe that I’ve had sex once. No one knows for sure because I don’t talk about it. They don’t ask. No one mentions it so I don’t know how they feel. I think my mom thinks I’m gay because she has made snide comments about it in the past. I don’t have close friends so it isn’t something that comes up a lot. I rarely think about being a virgin. It isn’t an issue in my day to day life.
Do you have any interest in having a partner to navigate life with – even if that relationship doesn’t involve sex?
No, I’m not interested in having a partner especially a live-in one. I love living alone. Sometimes I do wonder what it would be like to date someone without sex and living separately. That is the only way I’ll ever date someone. I haven’t completely ruled that out, but I’m definitely not looking for it.
I’m not interested in cuddling but maybe if I found the right person, that would change. The same goes for emotional intimacy. With the right situation, I may be open to that.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Kat. Do you guys have any (polite!) questions for her? Are any of you happily sex-free?
Photo by Jessica Lok // cc

True Story: I’m A Recovering Asshole

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, challenging, amazing things. This is the story my friend Jina and how she went from an angry, self-medicating asshole to a happy, centered human. 

Tell us a bit about yourself! 

My name is Jina. I’m 34 and I’m a recovering asshole. This is an anonymous meeting… right? No? Okay, double-knot those laces, I’m going for it anyway.
I’m originally from a really small town (population 700) in central Minnesota. Currently I live in Minneapolis with my forever guy and my sassy wiener dog. For fun I like to go out on dates, eat tasty food, listen to music, watch soap operas, and wander around my neighborhood as my wiener dog sniffs everything at a snail’s pace.
For work I write on my blog The Happy Healthy Truth, publicly speak on getting happier and healthier, hold Lifestyle Design Camps with my biz BFF Katie Lee, and I have online programs for meditation and creating intuition about food choices and motivation.
I’m sure we’ve all got our own definition of ‘asshole.’ What’s yours?
An asshole is someone who brings down the crowd with their words (complaints, judging, shit-talking, blaming), with their actions (throwing a beer bottle across the bar) or just their energetic vibration (you know those people who just walk into a room and bring down the mood).
What were some of your more asshole-y behaviors?
Growing up, if I saw someone picking on another person, I would go after the person doing the picking. In elementary school, I would organize a small group of friends to hold down a bully and I’d punch them over and over. As I grew older I would confront people (usually the initiator in typical mean girl stuff) and I would rip into them with my words.
If we had a substitute teacher in junior high or high school, it was my goal to see if I could break them into tears by the end of the class time. Insults, pranks, lipping off… anything to get under their skin. I was usually successful.
I’d bust the chops of the high school principal if I felt like anyone was preferential treatment. I’d call him out in front of a crowd of people whenever I could to make a bigger impact.
On graduation day that principal came up to me to me and said, “Change your attitude or you’ll never go anywhere in life.” I was speechless – probably for the first time in my life.
In college, I did all the cliche things like lying, cheating, stealing, and then I’d drink beer and laugh it off.
Why did you do these things or behave this way?
Like years of therapy will tell anyone, I did all of these things because I was unhappy.
I grew up in an abusive home. My dad beat up mom and us kids learned that wild form of communication well. That minor issue (sarcasm), along with other family issues that my parents were dealing with, trickled down and gave me quite the asshole complex.
Deep down, I never felt good enough or wanted. As you can imagine, truly feeling this way causes heavy sadness. I’ve learned along my journey that anger is the mask for sadness. I completely agree and see it in my own past.
Of course, back then I never thought I was sad. I only felt angry.


When you were in the thick of it, did you realize that you were acting like a jerk?
There were a few times where I felt like I had gone too far, but I would justify it away with all the reasons why acting like an asshole was okay in that moment. At that time it was everybody’s fault but my own!
After I started working to get happier and healthier, I would see myself acting like an asshole and that helped me check in and think about what I could do differently to deal with this difficult person or situation the next time I ran into it.
How did your behavior affect the rest of your life?
Like I said, at the root I was really sad. However, because I didn’t know or believe that, I was focused on external things to give me hits of happiness. Actually, I say “hits” of happiness now, but back then I thought they were the key to my happiness. You know, it’s the, “I’ll be happy when…”
When I get that new job, find a better place to live, move to another state, buy that shirt or those jeans, get that cute SUV, find someone better to date, or change the colors of my walls or rearrange my furniture to make me feel better at home.
All of these things cost a lot of money. And the happiness they give is temporary. Sadness and blame are expensive habits!
Not to mention the energy that goes into finding the next guy to date, interviewing for the next job, test driving cars, shopping for jeans (ugh), painting, rearranging… Phew!
When did you realize that you didn’t want to be an asshole anymore? 
It was definitely a gradual dawning. I started to see a common theme to my job switching, car buying, dating, and time in the dressing room. I was the common denominator in everything in my life that I didn’t like.
Around that time I had also read somewhere that if you want to change your life you need to take ownership over everything in your life – the good and the bad. Taking ownership means no longer blaming anyone for anything.
So I took ownership and started researching how to become happier and more peaceful.
Once you decided to change, what changes did you make? Where there any tools/books/epiphanies that really helped you in your process?
The biggest change for me was studying yoga. Yoga wasn’t my complete answer, but it opened many doors alone my journey. In 2005, I started training to be a yoga teacher. A suggested reading of one of the courses I took was Growing the Positive Mind by William Kent Larkin. It taught me the science behind feeling happiness and gave me specific exercises to increase the happiness I felt on a regular basis.
I kept reading on happiness, spirituality, and anything else that could change my perception to become more joyful and peaceful. I learned how to eat to balance brain chemistry for better emotional health. I started meditating. I saw a therapist (a few of them). I had neurological chiropractic work done. I recited affirmations. I journaled. I did chakra work and Reiki. I cleansed my aura and kept healing crystals close. Most recently I’ve done hypnosis and past life regression. Some of these practices worked better than others. Some I still use today.
How did the people in your life react to the changes you made?
There are some people who naturally faded away as I become happier and less destructive. Some people were interested in trying the methods I used to create positive changes. And, of course, there have been some tough conversations with people that go something like, “You’re gonna have to clean up your shit. I can’t deal with it anymore.” Like that, but a little more loving or laughable depending on who is on the receiving end.
What’s your life like now? What do you think your 20-year-old self would say if she could see you now?
My life is f*cking amazing. Really. I’ve worked hard to get here and I’ll never be done with the effort to grow and have a positive outlook. Which is just fine, because the work pays off 100 fold.
Having a solid relationship rooted in love and compassion, a job with killer returns in money and joy, a great place to live, and supportive and fun friends is not an accident. I am the other half of every good thing in my life. If I get lazy, stop being mindful, avoid tough conversations and don’t put in the work, the entire thing would fall apart.
Sure, it takes effort, but it feels better to act like the person who deserves this life.
The old me? Outwardly she’d act like she didn’t care. Secretly she’d be a little intimidated. Overall she’d be really proud.Thanks so much for sharing your story, Jina. Do you guys have any questions for her? Have any of you moved past self-destructive, asshole-y behaviors? 

P.S. Why you should hang out with + date people you admire and How to get over your mistakes

True Story: I’m A Lady Geologist Living + Working On An Oil Rig

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Rachael and how she came to be a geologist if a very male-dominated field. 

Tell us a bit about yourself!

My name is Rachael. I’m 29 years old from Lafayette, Louisiana and I love to travel. I’ve been to 11 countries and 38 states. I’m an avid gardener and am currently restoring a 125 year old Cajun home in the country with my husband. I’m also a mother of a one year old daughter.

You’re a Logger aka Mud Logger aka Logging Geologist aka Surface Data Logger. What do you, well, do? 

When you just look at the bare bones of the job, Loggers are the eyes of the well. We have sensors hooked up to the most critical pieces of equipment and we monitor and document them 24-7. We are the first to see if something isn’t right and can call the driller if we see a kick. We have tons of equipment to maintain… A good Logger is someone who can troubleshoot, make good lists, and be well organized.
What sort of training did you need to get this job? 


To become a Logger you typically need a STEM degree – that’s a B.S. in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics. I have a B.S. in Geology, and a minor in Music. Most of the training is on the job, but my employer provides many training classes.

What drew you to this type of work? 

Money and half of the year off is what drew me first to the job. My husband stays at home with the baby and I work. As soon as we’re done with fixing the house we’ll be able to go traveling again. A Logger at my company who does a good job makes about $70k a year at the least and can make over $100k as a Lead (the one in charge). Keep in mind, we only work half of the year.

What’s your work schedule like? Can you tell us about a typical day?

I work 14 days on, 14 days off, and a 12 hour tour (pronounced tower) with a relief worker (also my roommate) working the opposite tour. I fly out to the rig in a helicopter, which is one of my favorite things ever.
A typical day for me starts with waking up at 10:30am and heading down to the galley to eat and chat with the fellas about rig activity, football, hunting, trucks, and babies. 11:30am we all go to the pre-tour safety meeting and discuss the various planned activities for the day. I then go up to the “logger’s shack,” the metal unit where I work, and talk with my relief about what happened during his tour and discuss ways to fix the thing that broke.
I then spend the next 12 hours monitoring the well, identifying the rock types coming out of the hole, and telling them if we’ve hit oil or gas. At midnight my relief comes, we have a handover discussion, and then I go back down to the galley and joke and laugh with the fellas as we eat dinner together. Afterwards I will either hit the treadmill for 30 minutes or hit the shower then spend an hour or two on the internet seeing what’s going on in the world before I go to sleep and do it all over again.
Are there any other women on your team? Have you encountered any issues working in such a male-dominated environment?


I am almost always the only female that doesn’t work for housekeeping or the kitchen and usually am the only woman on board. It has it’s pros and cons.
The older fellas typically look at me one of two ways. It’s either I’m a girl who’s not going to pull her weight, not know what’s going on, going to get myself hurt, and distract the guys so much that they’ll get hurt, OR (usually the really old ones 70’s +) they see me as a sign of the future and try to dedicate a little extra of their time to make sure I know where I’m going, what’s going on, or how things work. The younger guys rarely think like the first set of old dudes that I described.
They are a close knit group who see each other like brothers and once I make them laugh, I become part of the family too. They pick on me when I have bed-head, but will go out of their way to help me if I need help. I show them all that I’m a hard worker and can not only do my job, but I do it very well.

How have the people in your life reacted to your career?

I am the oldest sibling of 3 with 2 younger brothers. My mother is the oldest of 4 with 3 younger brothers. All of the men in my family work in or for the oil field. My uncles still ask every time they see me if I like my job and I always say that I love it. My girlfriends (all gardeners, musicians, artists, and environmentalists) always encourage me and seem to be impressed with my brave and strange decision to work offshore with all those men. Ha.
When I travel and talk with others outside of the South about what I do they always have the look of shock. I then tell them about the huge benefits, and how I am responsible for the lives of everyone on board and the environment of the gulf around me. That usually does the trick.
Has your work affected the way you think about gas and oil prices? 


I drive a Prius C, so gas prices don’t really matter to me, and I don’t like politics. They are not discussed offshore outside of a joke here and there and that’s the way we all like it.
Do you plan to do this for the rest of your career?


I’m planning on sticking with this. My goal is to work my way to Lead and work in the gulf for 3 – 5 years. After that transfer to work internationally (Russia I hope) and work 28 on 28 off and live in Seattle. I’m going to retire from the oil field in 21 years and then get a job identifying rocks and minerals in the back of a museum or something awesome like that.
What’s one thing you’ve learned on the job that any of us could apply to our daily lives?


One thing I’ve learned working out here is how much making lists can help any situation in work or life become less scary and goals more attainable. I write out everything and I get it all done. Lists turn goals into life.Thanks so much for sharing, Rachel! Do you guys have any questions for her? Do any of you work in particularly male-dominated fields? 

P.S. Two more interesting career interviews: I lived + worked on the South Pole and I’m a long haul trucker

True Story: I’m a woman who plays on a men’s sports team

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Amanda and how she came to be part of an all male rowing team.

Tell us a bit about yourself! 
My name is Amanda Dillon, and I’m from Palo Alto, California! I’m currently a senior and full-time student at a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts, which is how I got started with crew in the first place. For fun, I write and design for my blog, Ex Vitae, which I launched at the beginning of this academic year. I’m also writing a senior honors thesis, so it’s safe to say that I’m pretty busy most of the time 🙂
For those of us who don’t know, what does Crew consist of?
I like to describe crew as the quintessential team sport. Crew, also known as rowing, is basically the sport of rowing boats. At my college, we row boats of either 8 or 4 rowers with a coxswain, who steers the boat and commands the crew. The coxswain – that’s me! – doesn’t actually row; we drive the boat and execute race strategy. In the fall, races are between 4-6 kilometers in length, and are usually done against the clock with different heats starting at different times. In the spring, however, the races are 2K and done head-to-head. Very exciting!
How long have you been rowing crew?
I’ve been rowing crew for three years now. When I was a freshman in my first few weeks of college, I was approached by a very tall man in my dining hall who looked down at me and said “Hey you! Want to be a coxswain?” And the rest is history!
Does your university have a women’s crew team? 
Yep. I was actually on the women’s team for a semester in my freshman year after being on the men’s team, but decided after that experience that my coxing style was probably better suited to the guys. Coxswain placement is about fit with the crew and weight. Right now, I weigh around 123 pounds, which is right around the men’s weight minimum (the women’s minimum is 110 pounds). Any less, and I would have to carry sand with me in the boat to level out. Coaches generally like their coxswains to be right at the weight minimum, so I’m pretty well-suited for the men’s team at this point.
What did you have to do to get a spot on this team? 
Crew is a classic college walk-on sport, so I didn’t have to try out to gain a spot on the team. However, right after I joined, my coach pulled me aside and asked me to jump right on the men’s varsity team due to a shortage of varsity coxswains. This is pretty unusual, as most freshman row exclusively with other freshman on the novice team for their first year with the sport. I was skeptical and extremely nervous, but I decided to challenge myself and take the plunge.
How did your teammates react when they discovered there would be a woman on their all-male team?
It was certainly peculiar for the guys to have a freshman girl (who didn’t know anything about crew!) bossing them around, and they were understandably a bit rough with me at first. My first week on the water, I cried every single day in the boat because I had no idea what I was doing and the guys had a tendency to get vocally frustrated with me. However, after we all got used to each other, we ended up having a fairly successful season.My family didn’t understand what I was doing at first – it took a whole semester to convince my sister that I was actually on the team, considering that I didn’t actually row! After explaining about the weight and fit components of being a coxswain, I think they started to understand how I could be a girl on the guys’ team…although they probably still think I’m crazy!

When your team competes, how do the your competitors react to you?
Crew is definitely a gentleman’s sport – I’ve never been treated with anything other than respect by my competitors. It’s harder, though, to explain my position to my friends and family. For the first season I was on the team, a number of friends asked me if I was on the men’s team because I wanted to date the rowers. Nothing could be farther from the truth – that would be like dating a brother! – but it’s a question I still get asked fairly frequently. It’s too bad, because I feel that this assumption devalues my position in the boat and completely ignores the dedication and hard work that I put in every day for my sport.
Tell us what an average day at practice looks like.
For my team, practice consists of a 2.5 hour row, 6 days per week, either in the morning or in the afternoon. Our boathouse is located 7 miles off campus on the Connecticut River, so we generally load up vans a half an hour before practice actually starts and head over together. From there, we offload the boats, launch from the dock, and go through a series of technique drills and power pieces.Rowing is considered to be a complete exercise – almost every muscle in your body is worked in the course of one stroke – and it requires strict attention to both muscular and cardio strength. Some days are spent working solely on particular technique, and others are made up of mock races to get the rowers into shape.

What have you learned from this that you can apply to other parts of your life?
Being a coxswain has definitely provided me with valuable assertiveness training that I wouldn’t have received otherwise. As a freshman girl, I struggled with voicing my opinion and standing up for myself. Being a coxswain, especially on the men’s team, essentially forces you to be strong and decisive. Otherwise, you degrade the trust between you and your rowers, and the results are not nearly as strong.Being on the crew team has also been a lesson in collaboration. To make a successful boat, you have to have 5 or 9 people who are willing to put their differences aside and work together toward the common goal of speed. It can be difficult to reconcile the personalities of 4 other people! However, the natural leadership ability that you gain from coxing is incredibly beneficial in situations where two rowers don’t see eye to eye. I wouldn’t trade the hours I’ve spent with my team for anything, and I am grateful every day for this motley crew of a family I’ve cultivated at school. Almost nothing could be better!

Thanks so much for sharing, Amanda!  Do you guys have any questions for her? Have you ever played a non-traditional role on a sports team? 

P.S. Two more sporty interviews: I’m a professional athlete and I broke a world record – I was the youngest woman to run a marathon in every state