Every week until the series finale of Girls, Vulture TV columnist Jen Chaney will also serve as an advice columnist for various characters on the HBO series. This week’s advice recipient: Hannah Horvath. As always, spoilers ahead for Sunday night’s episode of Girls.
Advice columns are usually bullshit. You know this. I know this. Abby and Ann Landers and the women who wrote under those pseudonyms knew this. But I’ve just learned some information that I am struggling with; if I were ever going to write a letter to a TV critic pretending to be an advice columnist, this would be the time.
I’m pregnant. I found out in the weirdest possible way: from this handsome doctor guy that I slept with a long time ago, in a bottle episode that was not greeted with the universal sense of appreciation that I believe, especially in retrospect, it deserved. I hadn’t seen him since then so it was jarring, and a little embarrassing, to reconnect over what I thought was just a UTI but turned out to be more. Especially while I was wearing a sweatshirt that said “Typical Boy” on it.
He told me that I’m pregnant in this casual, offhand way, as if I already was aware of it. Like, “Hey, you left your cell phone on the kitchen table. Oh, and you’re pregnant.”
Josh immediately offered to help me get an abortion. Which was kind of him, I guess? But it also was extremely presumptuous. Why did he assume I would want to get rid of the baby? I don’t know that I want to do that. I don’t know what I want to do.
All I know is that I immediately felt different. Raising a child on my own scares me to death. I also cannot imagine Elijah being super into having a crying baby and breast pump parts all over the apartment. But what’s bothering me even more is something that this writer, who bears a striking resemblance to Tracey Ullman, recently told me. “Childlessness is the natural state of the female author,” she said. “Write that down. Get used to it.” If I decide to have this baby, does that mean I won’t be able to be a writer anymore? Will I have to give it all up? I may not be the voice of my generation, but the thing I always loved more than anything was the fact that I had a voice and, as a writer, I got to use it. As a mom, will I lose that?
Here’s what I am not going to do: tell you whether or not to have this baby. That is an extraordinarily personal decision and one that has to be made by the mother and, ideally, the father, too. I do think you should probably tell Paul-Louis about this, out of courtesy. You also should probably remember that he’s a surfing instructor, and doesn’t specialize in “water skis.” (And by the way, you should remember to call Joshua Joshua, rather than Josh. I didn’t sleep with the guy and even I remember that he didn’t care for the short version and told you that about 30 times during the nearly 48 hours you spent together.)
I digress. As I was saying, this decision is a difficult one to make, but it is ultimately yours to make and no one else’s. This is the reality of being a pro-choice woman: You get to choose what to do in this situation.
What I will tell you is this: No matter what you decide, you will be okay. Many women have decided to terminate pregnancies and gone on to lead fulfilling lives. Many women also have decided to proceed with pregnancies they did not plan, and have gone on to lead fulfilling lives as well.
The hardest thing about making this call is that it is potentially more irreversible than any other major life decision you face as an adult. If you move to a place you don’t like, you can always move again. If you take a job you don’t like, you can quit. If you marry someone and it doesn’t work out, you can get divorced, as unpleasant as that is. But if you decide to have a child, you will always be a mother, full stop. If you end a pregnancy and decide never to become a mom or have trouble getting pregnant later in life, you will always know you had a chance and opted not to take it. On the flip side, you could end the pregnancy and get pregnant later, when you feel more ready, or realize you never really wanted to be a mom and look back with no regrets at all. You see how this game works? It’s all based on hypotheticals. Attempting to imagine how you’ll feel about this baby based on what happens next is impossible because, as this pregnancy news just taught you, it is often impossible to know what’s going to happen next and how that next thing will make you feel. All you can do in this situation is consider the practical realities you face and then act based on what your gut and head are telling you to do right now.
I will tell you this, not to sway you one way or the other, but just so you understand, now or in the future: having a baby does not have to equal giving up on writing. Admittedly, it is challenging to be a single parent without a lot of income, trying to raise a child in New York while working as a freelance writer. You are going to need help, and you’ll probably need another steady job to pay the bills, and you will most definitely need health insurance. And the way things are going on that front, good luck with that! (You men and women in Girls land are living in this wonderful vacuum in which Trump does not seem to have been elected yet. It’s actually given the show a heightened level of escapism this season that I appreciate.)
As that Tracey Ullman author told you: Being a woman and a writer is a lot harder than it seems. You already know how hard it is, and you’ve done pretty well for yourself compared to most people. But if you were listening closely to her, she also told you something really important: that if you’re waiting around for that perfect moment to explore your craft — when you have a stretch of interrupted time with no responsibilities that enables you to luxuriate in your writerly thoughts, preferably while sitting at a desk that has a view of the Pacific like all those women in Big Little Lies have — you’re fooling yourself. It’s not going to happen. It may not even be what’s best for your work or what makes you happy.
I’m not trying to say that, like that writer, you should become a part-time sex worker. What I am saying is that other things in your life are always going to distract and pull you away from writing or other things you want to do. But they also will enhance what you bring to the page, literally and metaphorically.
If you have a baby, now or in the future, will it make everything in your life more challenging and, for a few months at least, physically and mentally wear you down until at some point, you find yourself standing in a Duane Reade at two in the morning, weeping and trying to figure out where the infant nasal aspirators are located? Yes. God, yes. But being a mother does not — and should not — mean you have to shed every other skin you’ve ever worn and that’s ever mattered to you. It squeezes the time that you have and forces you to be even more disciplined about the ways in which you spend it. To borrow your words, it forces you to be in service of at least one other person every day. But it doesn’t immediately put a period or exclamation point at the end of the sentence you started writing about yourself and still don’t feel you have properly finished. A semicolon maybe. But not a period or an exclamation point.
There are a lot of valid reasons why you may decide to terminate the pregnancy. And there are as many valid reasons why you may decide that you want to have this baby. Whatever you decide, don’t make the choice to prove something. Don’t decide to get an abortion because that “proves” that you’re the kind of evolved woman who’s so committed to her career that she has no time for motherhood, and don’t decide to have the baby to “prove” to people like Joshua that you’re mature enough to care for another human. Do what feels right for you and your future and don’t look back. That’s what all adventurous — and grown-up — women do.