This article originally appeared on VICE US.
“Oh my god,” says a pregnant woman lying on a couch, interrupting the steady thump-thump of the fetal heartbeat monitor on her lap. “I think my water just broke.”
“Nooo,” says an unseen man filming it all, his tone flat.
“Oh my god,” she says, standing up. She looks behind her. “That’s blood.” The camera zeroes in on a small wet spot where she sat.
The video then cuts to a talking head shot featuring the aforementioned pregnant woman, Loren Frenzel. Loren, along with her husband, Lance, runs the pink after blue YouTube channel, which currently has about 28,000 subscribers. The 54-minute clip is an otherwise routine pregnancy vlog, documenting the 29th week of Loren’s most recent pregnancy with baby boy Cruz. But despite the modest subscriber audience, the video racked up more than 391,000 views, because it documents Frenzel’s water breaking on camera. Viewers know what's in store thanks to the video’s extremely subtle all-caps title, “MY WATER BROKE LIVE!”
The Frenzels’ clip is one of a growing number of YouTube videos capturing the moment a pregnant person’s water breaks—that is, the moment their amniotic sac ruptures and fluid starts to leak out of their vagina before or during labor. It’s a genre I only recently found out about, having fallen down a YouTube hole a few weeks ago. There, at the bottom, I had to reckon with the fact that yes, this was something I wanted to watch.
I felt kind of gross and more than a little voyeuristic, but at least I wasn’t alone; two of the top comments on a similar video by Jasmine Stewart tell viewers to fast-forward to the four minute mark to see her water break. But the videos also serve a more noble purpose: to demystify what might otherwise be a scary moment during the child-birthing process for expectant parents, and to give non-parents a better understanding of the less glossy, more realistic aspects of pregnancy.
“Im a first time mom and I’m due in 9 weeks,” wrote one commenter under Stewart’s video. “I can’t wait to have this same experience! 😩💙.”
“This is so informative and so pure,” wrote another.
If you’ve only seen fictional women’s water breaking, these YouTube videos might seem anticlimactic. On TV and in movies, a person’s water breaking is usually really dramatic and often serves a clear narrative function. Think: the gush of baby fluid flooding out of Jane Curtin in Coneheads or the amniotic bomb Miranda dropped on a pair of Carrie’s expensive designer shoes in an episode of Sex and the City. Compared to these pop cultural depictions, the Frenzels’ video and others like it might be a bit of a letdown, and that’s precisely the point. The moment your water breaks isn’t always the tense, dramatic moment that Miranda et al. have led us to believe. And thanks to YouTube, we now have a massive trove of video evidence to prove it.
A search for the phrase “my water broke” yields more than 12,000 YouTube results. Searches for “water breaks” and “water breaking” also turn up results in the thousands, though it should be noted that prank videos where a pregnant woman breaks a water balloon between her legs in order to troll her husband are part of that total.
“What is that?!” asks Austin of the ACE Family channel after running into his bedroom to check on his screaming wife.
“My water just broke!” says Catherine in a mock panic.
“Oh, shit! Um,” he tries to pick her up over his shoulder for some reason.
“I can’t move, Austin!” she screams before walking to the bathroom without a problem.
The existence of all sorts of water breaking videos suggests that demand for such content is high. According to Google Trends, interest in water-breaking content peaked in February of this year and prank videos like the ACE Family’s are particularly popular at the moment. In a video titled “LABOR AND DELIVERY (MY WATER BROKE ON CAMERA!!),” YouTuber Jasmine Stewart’s water unexpectedly breaks while she’s filming a haul-esque video about what she’s bringing with her to the delivery room. She’s stunned, then panicked, then nervous, then excited as she bolts from the bedroom to the nearest bathroom, where she takes stock of what just happened.
“This is so crazy,” she says to the camera, half-laughing. “I was just trying to do a video that’s not gonna go up no more!”
It’s a very real moment (or, at least, it seems real; certainly these moments could be faked, but if vloggers are filming obsessively, capturing even rare occurrences like these isn’t impossible) and it eschews the usual tropey depictions of a pregnant woman’s water breaking for the actual emotions that she felt as she was feeling them. But more importantly, it walks all over the usual taboos around the very normal body-horror experience that pregnancy can be.
No matter how genuine the moments depicted, Stewart and Frenzel, both members of the YouTube Partner Program, are still monetizing those moments for profit, making money off of every new viewer they can get. After all, Stewart did end up posting the video that she declared during filming was “not gonna go up.”
Still, the videos seem to be breaking down some of the stigma that clouds every step of childbirth.
“I’m due in 8 weeks can’t wait sooo scared this my first,” a woman named Danielle Turner writes.
“omg do not be scared!” Stewart replies. “You got this! And congrats ♥️”
“thank you so much 😍❤️❤️,” Turner says back.
Follow Harron Walker on Twitter.