When “Girls” came to an end, I found myself doing something I rarely did in earlier seasons. To cool the hot rage boiling in my stomach, I vocally judged the verisimilitude of the show – or rather, to be specific, of Hannah’s pregnancy. And by verisimilitude, I am naturally referring to how similar her experience was to mine.
I mean, isn’t the truth only the truth if it is what I experienced? We agree, yes?
So, why the hell wasn’t Hannah puking in those first three months? WHY DID WE NEVER SEE HER VOMIT OR SAY SHE WANTED TO VOMIT? Why wasn’t she at least burping from all the acid reflux? Why wasn’t she sleeping at odd times, unable to keep her eyes open at inopportune times? Why wasn’t she talking about how much she didn’t like being pregnant?
In other words, why wasn’t she me right now?
Dear Hannah (and Lena, too) have endured years of this sort of artless, narcissistic criticism, and here I was, joining in the myopic pack. But if there is anything a woman enduring an unpleasant pregnancy wants, it’s affirmations of awfulness from as many other pregnant people (real or fictional, DOESN’T MATTER) as possible. And if there is anything such a woman will not get, it is likely just that.
I’m pregnant for the second time, and I wish I felt happier about it. I understand that being able to share such a thing publicly is evidence of my profound privilege, so I’ll add that I am happy that, in approximately five months, I will have a second child.
The idea of holding a newborn, of raising two kids to (fingers crossed) care for each other or at least tolerate each other, of persuading the older one to babysit for the younger one, of weird, loud, amusing family dinners, of bumbling around a four-person household in an awe-filled daze…. All of that sounds like the sort of stuff I got into this baby business for in the first place.
And sure, I don’t doubt a sea of new hiccups and headaches awaits me, too. But I feel the same way I did the first time I was pregnant more than three years ago: There is nothing I can’t handle once this baby gets the hell out of my body. (And even that, I know, is just wishful thinking.)
It is uncouth to complain about pregnancy when so many women struggle to get there. This, I know, and try to remind myself of. But we’re hard on ourselves, we women. We humans. So, as nervous as I am to publicly kvetch about my pregnancy complaints, I’m just as anxious to not pretend to be a blissful vision of grace during this strange time.
No one needs to pretend – not those entrenched in a fertility battle, not those whose embryonic journey has had them retching over the toilet at all hours, at odds with their capable, if exhausted, newly changed body.
When I think about it this way, I feel less disappointed in Hannah for not having EXACTLY my experience. When I consider it for more than a moment, I’m relieved that there’s a television show that features an ill-prepared pregnant woman, one who is technically a grown-up, a self-sufficient individual, but not a bastion of obvious maternal energy, not married or attached to a man, and not, it seems, ready for a baby.
Of course, the laughable and universal thing is that no matter how prepared you seem or believe yourself to be, birthing and raising a child involves some element of surprise and moments (if not hours, weeks, months, years…decades, oh my god) of self-doubt. It’s also a comfort to see a woman who has made a decision for reasons that might not be entirely clear to her or explainable to other people – people who audibly have little faith in her.
I felt this way about my first pregnancy and also about this second one. It has been, for me, a course of action that defies logic. There is joy in it, yes, but there is also pain, of every sort. It is a path riddled with uncertainty, the kind that freelancers like Hannah (formerly) and like me (still!) may be both energized and crippled by.
You could say, well, that’s what life is, isn’t it? Life is love and sorrow and fear and horror and a Sisyphean effort to avoid the unknown. If you’re game, why not bring a baby into it? Why not be, ultimately, a romantic, defying financial prudence, our modern ideas of self-care accidentally cracking open the hardened clay with which we’ve spent years walling off our still tender hearts?
Hannah Horvath’s story has ended, or at least has stopped airing on television. But there are millions of happily and unhappily pregnant women whose stories are not stories yet, whose everyday highs and lows are just moments being strung together into crowns they’ll all someday call their lives.
I am one of them and am, I know, lucky to be.