One thing that always set HBO’s series Girls apart from other shows that depict millennial life was how realistic everything was. We saw our fair share of awkward yet familiar sexual experiences between just about every character (Hannah and Adam, Elijah and Marnie, Ray and Shoshanna, etc.). We watched Hannah’s dad uncomfortably navigate his newly proclaimed state of homosexuality. We witnessed many relationships and friendships crumble into a million pieces. We’ve seen it all.
The finale of Girls was no different. Only this time, the emphasis was on motherhood rather than sex. The episode was called “Latching,” which was both literally and figuratively relevant, and Hannah’s main struggle was to get her son Grover to breastfeed again (because, according to Marnie, he really needed that “liquid gold”).
Trying to get your baby to latch on and breastfeed is certainly not an uncommon experience among mothers, so it was refreshing to see motherhood painted in a more realistic, less romantic light.
Just as importantly as Hannah’s battle with breastfeeding was her honesty about her postpartum body. We’re so used to seeing celebrities bounce back from pregnancy in the blink of an eye, so those of us who aren’t moms aren’t left with much truth about the post-pregnancy experience. The truth is, it’s not usually as pretty as it’s made out to be in most movies and TV shows. Luckily, we have Girls to show us a few realities about what life is like once you’ve just had a baby.
At a pretty heightened moment in the final episode, Hannah walked out onto the front porch wearing a breast pump backpack. Which, allow us to say, is brilliant, funny, and accurately telling of the motherhood experience. The Girls writers took it a step further, though. They gave Hannah the space to rant and rave about the changes her body is going through.
If you think back to all the most popular shows we’ve all come to love over the years, it’s very rare to see this kind of candid display of motherhood. There are all kinds of weird yet totally natural things that happen to the body right after you have a baby, and it’s cool to think that a hit series like Girls would touch on these truths.
There were other frank little moments throughout the episode that showed what it’s really like to be caring for and nursing an infant. The “temp doctor” Hannah and Grover saw toward the beginning of the episode didn’t exactly give off the right kind of vibes, which left Hannah a bit doubtful about the health of her baby. This is said to be a common experience among many new mothers.
Also, Hannah’s extra-large maternity pants gave us a few laughs, but that’s simply what a lot of women are left wearing while their bodies are recovering from, you know, giving birth. At one point, Hannah even joked about how she’s supposed to answer her sexual urges when she’s carrying around a breast pump all day. It’s hard to get laid when you’re pumping breast milk.
In the middle of her explosive rant at Marnie, Hannah said, “This is reality. And you suck at it!”
It’s both funny and sad, but it’s also true—this is reality. Lena Dunham took the time to show some (but not necessarily all) the realities of women’s lives when they enter their motherhood act. Notice this is the first time we ever see Hannah’s nipples outside the context of having sex, and they’re large, brown, and, as she mentioned at one point in the finale, very sore.
Of course, no two mothers are going to have the same exact experience when they’re nursing their infants. But Girls isn’t trying to say that motherhood is universal. It’s just showing little snippets of the experience that are often left out from the vast majority of television programs. Just like we deserve to see and hear the truth about our periods in the media, we deserve to see and hear the truth about post-pregnancy bodies. Because there’s nothing gross or unnatural about any of it.