I expected Hannah to have an abortion. When the series finale of Girls began with Hannah holding a hearty, healthy, seemingly mixed baby whose brown melanin reflects that the father of the child is a man of color, I audibly gasped. (Full disclosure: I caught most episodes of season six, but as a busy toddler mom, I never caught the infamous water skiing instructor hookup, so for me, seeing Hannah with a mixed son was an even bigger shock as the series was fairly devoid of people of color and criticized for falling flat when they appeared.)
I grew up on Girls, exploring my freedom and carefree early 20-something days in ways similar to the Brooklyn-based protagonists. When I had my daughter at 26, a part of me felt that those carefree days were totally over.
As an aspiring writer who needed experiences to tell on paper, I thought that life would essentially be uninspired. I wrote about the challenges of being a younger parent in a major metropolitan city, and it seemed like the parenting beat was what I’d be relegated to moving forward.
As a first-time parent, you lose a bit of your identity and purpose. Similarly, that’s what the series finale of Girls did too. But it was okay, because it was accurate and showed that the series’ protagonist, the glue of the group, had grown.
What exactly did Girls get right about parenting a newborn child as a first-time millennial mom?
It is fully exhausting, sometimes downright trite, and occasionally beautiful.
Hannah has issues getting her baby to latch on, so she relies on pumping breast milk as a way to sustain her child. Part of me is widely annoyed by her disconnection to this brown, fatherless baby and her insistence upon wanting to create such a situation for this child. This is further heightened when her child doesn’t latch on to her, making the disconnect that much more pronounced and frustrating for a frazzled single mom.
Hannah’s lactation issues, though, are not dissimilar to many mothers wanting to join the “breast is best” brigade and feeling the pressure from others (I’m looking at you, Marnie) to not give in to evil formula no matter how challenging, exhausting, and hard it is on a recovering postpartum mother’s body or how malnourished their screaming hungry child may seem.
Girls focuses solely on trying to feed and soothe a child for 15 of the allotted 38 minutes of its six-year run show finale (lending itself well to the episode title, “Latching”) with the baby occasionally smiling and giving your ovaries baby fever when Marnie comes to the rescue. Not exactly the riveting, witty, sarcastic show that the series has always been, but it’s an accurate portrayal of the first few months of motherhood.
You will hate the “freedom” of your partner.
While Hannah isn’t raising her child with his father, her best friend Marnie is game to help her through long, sleepless nights and feedings. Like Hannah, it is the most selfless we’ve seen Marnie through the series and a true testament to their strong friendship that Marnie shows up when everyone else falls by the wayside. But then Marnie asks Hannah’s permission to go to a jazz festival, a request so subtle yet frustrating to Hannah that I sensed in her the bitter resentment that I, too, had when my partner was able to go to post-work events that reeked of leisure as I dealt full-time 24/7 with a child.
Many women suffer postpartum depression after having children. I was a part of that number. Marnie didn’t know what to do as a well-meaning and clueless partner, so she phoned Hannah’s mom who imparts her perfect wisdom on a sleep-deprived Hannah, scolding her for being sound asleep for three hours while the baby is wide awake. Not the best words of wisdom for a stressed-out new mom, but her presence and the all-hands-on-deck approach prove that actions speak louder than words.
You will see the world in a new way.
When Hannah comes across a hysterical half-dressed teenage girl who has “run away” from home after a fight with her mother over finishing her homework before going to her boyfriend’s house, Hannah is appalled — so appalled that she asks for the pants that she gave her back. I went to a concert when my daughter was 15 months old and gawked and gasped at teenage girls heading into woods for god knows what — to pee, to sneak alcohol in a flask, or to smoke? I feared being their mother. I remembered being young and dumb in college. I was thankful that my mother made me do my homework and drove me to concerts. (Side note: One thing the season finale also showed me is that it is not a Girls season finale without full-blown Hannah nudity.)
We can’t examine what Girls got right last night without also highlighting what it got wrong, including breaking for some wine time on the porch with your mom and BFF while your baby peacefully sleeps inside the house; running away from your home and baby, then giving the pants off of your body knowing damn well you are still in mesh, postpartum panties; and taking actual baths when you can barely take a shower.
I will miss Girls and am so proud of its grown-up direction. I know for many it was a disappointment, but for this mama bear it was so stunningly done.