Family Matters

WombTube: Taking Home Pregnancy Tests with an Audience

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Taking a pregnancy test can make a woman’s heart race. Some test-takers are desperate to see two lines or a plus sign — any indication that big changes lie nine months down the road. Others are just as desperate for chemical reassurance that they’re not having a baby. Regardless, it’s a rare woman who wants to share this uber-stressful, uber-private moment with the world.

Yet opting to share stressful, private moments has become much more common in our social media-obsessed culture. So perhaps it’s not surprising that more and more women are choosing to film the act of taking a pregnancy test. Call it WombTube, says Slate‘s Marisa Meltzer, who offered a sweeping overview last week of this very weird phenomenon:

That these videos are dominated by women doggedly trying to get pregnant explains why I didn’t see any WombTube videos of women getting negative test results and jumping for joy or even exhaling in relief, just like the pregnancy test commercials on TV. Both the commercials and WombTube share the same fantasy world where news of a pregnancy is only welcome and the darkest emotion one might be allowed to register is shock. It’s rare to find a video depicting a reaction to a negative test result at all, and the few women who post their nonpregnant status are devastated. They post these videos to prove to the world how committed they are to having babies.

All these women posting all these video clips on YouTube are essentially thumbing their noses at the custom of waiting until after the touch-and-go first trimester passes to spread the news that baby’s on board. I religiously observed that tradition with my kids, telling just my parents and a few close friends. Why? I’m not really sure — after all, it’s not as if miscarriage, which is most common in the first 12 weeks, is anything to be ashamed of — but plenty of women do the same thing. (More on Women Grieve Miscarriage for Years, Even After Having a Healthy Baby)

“These women would rather share their joy with a virtual community of strangers than follow that cautious custom,” writes Meltzer.

Like any good reality show, these women and their video clips are edited for mass consumption in terms of what they choose to leave out. Hence the glut of would-be mothers crying tears of joy and the dearth of women who get bad news. (Bad news, in the case of pregnancy, is all relative, after all.) (More on Time.comTo Slash the Abortion Rate, Dole Out Birth-Control Pills a Year at a Time)

Most of the videos skew ecstatic; even the most voyeuristic among us apparently don’t feel compelled to publicly share our relief over learning we’re not pregnant. Some things, it seems, are appropriately still private.