When Mike Magee learned he was going to be a dad, he pitched his tripod and stuck a piece of tape on the floor.
Each week for nine months, his girlfriend, Maureen Cyrenne, put on the same bathing suit and stood against the same wall in their Hinton, Alta., home for a side profile photo shoot.
It was a commitment and sometimes seemed a tedious chore. "There were a few times she didn't want to take her photos," says the tattoo artist who recently moved his family to Thunder Bay. "But I got her to pose without any problem."
The finished product is one they treasure - a seamless time-lapse video documenting the gradual ballooning of Ms. Cyrenne's belly, little Dexter growing inside. They posted it on YouTube, gleaning more than 178,000 views within two years.
No longer content to share their news via Facebook status updates or by e-mailing ultrasound photos to family and friends, more and more couples have turned to YouTube to document and share their pregnancy journeys online via time-lapse videos, made from hundreds of photos on computer moviemaker programs. Last week, bloggers at Lemondrop.com tore a strip off the videos, calling them a "horrifying trend."
"They're scarier than anything we've seen in the Alien movies and NOVA combined," they wrote, poking fun at an expectant woman's quick switch to a 'mom haircut.'
But the appeal of time-lapse pregnancy videos looms large for expectant couples, especially first-timers, says Jennifer Musial, who researches public reactions to the pregnant body at York University.
"I see it as part of a larger cultural trend, to share pregnancy and to document it," she says. We've come a long way since 1991 when a very pregnant Demi Moore posed on the cover of Vanity Fair to the outcry and intrigue of many, she notes.
Expectant mothers have also meticulously journalized their pregnancy on blogs.
"In some ways it's a way not only of documenting your experience, but also of validating your experience, because you can say, 'Oh look, it happened, here's a document of my life.'"
Seattle couple Matt and Carlin Pressnall filmed one of YouTube's first time-lapse pregnancy videos back in 2006. The Gestation Project reaped thousands of hits on YouTube and inspired many others to track their pregnancies via video slideshow, Mr. Pressnall says.
"Time-lapse is great for something like pregnancy because a woman's body goes through such subtle changes that you'll never detect them on a day to day basis," he says. "Something like the gestation video can show that big transformation." It also helps share the experience with faraway family and friends.
Meridith Smith's husband Jason was inspired by a time-lapse music video by the band Pavement. Their video, posted online last month and made from more than 400 photos, has a clean, professional feel - more art project than virtual scrapbook.
Each day, twice a day, Ms. Smith, a former teacher who now owns an Oklahoma City baby boutique called Smitty Baby, donned the same striped shirt, poured herself an identical glass of red juice and had her photo snapped standing before a white wall. She also kept one eye on what other people were doing.
"When I was pregnant, I liked to watch photos of other people's bellies and see if my growth was the same as theirs," she says.
While moms enjoy the final product, it's often the dads who spark the idea and throw themselves into the creative process. Raleigh, N.C., dad David Kilian is proud, yet critical, of his video of wife Sonya's growing stomach, saying he wished he'd been more consistent with backdrops.
Mr. Magee carefully planned for consistency, ensuring Ms. Cyrenne wore the same skimpy bikini.
"I said, 'I want to have you wearing as little as possible so we can get the whole effect,'" he says with a laugh.
Meanwhile, the bloggers continue to scrutinize and jibe.
"Attention, babyhungry ladies!" Eliot Glazer of urlesque.com wrote last week before picking apart the details of Jennifer's First Pregnancy video. "If that biological time bomb inside you is only getting louder, you may want to turn away from this adorable, estrogen churner in which one expectant mommy's baby bump is chronicled via time-lapse."
There's no doubt many of the videos echo similar themes. By watching a few, one can bet the pregnant mother will get that mom haircut by about week 20. Pets often wander in and out of photos. In Jennifer's First Pregnancy , the most recent subject of blogger scrutiny, Dad pops in for goofy blink-and-you'll-miss-him cameos.
Aside from the videos' funny DIY quirks, people might be making fun of them out of fear, says Ms. Musial. Some see pregnancy as a time when all control is lost. To see it in speed mode just crosses the line.
"I think that freaks people out, that the body changes so quickly. There's so many things to get ready for so quickly. You can't ever be prepared."
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