HBO Girls Finale on Breastfeeding vs. Formula
If You're Pissed About the Girls Finale, You're Part of the Problem
I've watched the entire series of HBO's Girls. To be honest, I loathed it from the start, but it was that can't-look-away kind of hate-watching that kept me a dedicated viewer for the past six seasons. I understood the underlying ethos — that these millennial girls weren't typical protagonists, that they were incredibly flawed, oftentimes terrible people, and that their behavior was more akin to real life than what Sex and the City would have you believe — but I still finished every episode feeling something along the annoyed-to-enraged spectrum.
So it was surprising that I actually enjoyed this week's series finale. It was even more surprising that no one else did.
The final episode, titled "Latching," jumped several months into the future, with Hannah struggling over the complexities of new motherhood.
I loved how real it felt. I loved when Hannah looked at her son, Grover, (because of course she named him Grover) and said, "You're being just a little bit of an asshole." I loved how she carried on a heated conversation while rocking a double breast pump, and I appreciated that they only slightly muffled the loud whir of the Medela Pump in Style machine (yep, I recognized it instantly) under the dialogue. I loved that she whipped out her boobs, much like she's done for the past half decade, but this time for completely sexless reasons. I loved that she complained about bleeding from her vagina. I even loved that she struggled with breastfeeding.
Actually, I especially loved that she struggled. For me, a mom who's taken the complicated journey of breastfeeding twice now, it meant something to see its less-than-beautiful aspects (especially the whole "my entire self-worth is wrapped up in this new human" bit) depicted on screen.
Still, most fellow mom-viewers have complained almost singularly about the breastfeeding storyline:
Why is Girls pushing breastfeeding? Hannah wouldn't give a sh*t about breastfeeding! Why wouldn't Hannah try formula? Why is Marnie such a stereotype for "breast is best"? What right does Lena Dunham have to tell me how to feed my baby?!?!
I get it: Girls, and antiheroine Hannah, have long bucked convention, and conventional wisdom is that mothers should breastfeed. Wouldn't it be more true to character for Hannah to feed her newborn formula? Maybe even a little coffee . . . and some bourbon at night to take the edge off?
As a parent, I've learned that you don't really know what type of mom you are going to be until you are one. Turns out, Hannah is the type of mom who wants to make breastfeeding work, even if it's hard. That's not a bad thing.
(For the record, I bet if we zipped a few years further into the future, we'd see Marnie — who spent this episode harping about "liquid gold" — opting to supplement formula with her daughter Aspen for six months, then moving to bottles exclusively. That's not a bad thing either.)
So, if you hated the finale, if you are pissed off about Hannah's determination to breastfeed, if you don't get why she wouldn't just give up . . . you are just as much a part of the problem as the people who shame moms for using formula.
The bottom line is none of us have the right to complain about another woman's choices when it comes to their babies, real or fictional. That is, unless Hannah is actually giving Grover coffee and bourbon. Then we should probably call Child Services.