Last Wednesday, the internet fell in love with vlogging couple Sam and Nia Rader.
The photogenic pair and their equally adorable children charmed the masses on YouTube after Sam revealed to his wife that she was pregnant — before she even knew it herself — by using pee she left in a toilet bowl for a pregnancy test.
The seemingly spontaneous video seemed destined to become a viral hit, and soon racked up nearly 13 million views on YouTube. The couple, from Terrell, Texas, gained thousands of fans and supporters wishing their family well, and promised to keep everyone updated on their pregnancy journey.
This included posting a new video titled "WE'RE GOING VIRAL!!"
But just three days later, the Raders delivered a devastating piece of news in a new video, called “Our Baby Had a Heartbeat.” They had lost the baby, whom they referred to as a girl. They estimated Nia was six weeks along.
The follow-up video received nearly 4 million views to date.
"We're so hurt but we're so thankful that God used us like this," Sam says in the video, later adding, "I just hope this video continues to be a way for God to shine his light through us."
The high school sweethearts, who describe themselves as devout Christians, soon received well wishes from around the world and were praised in the media and by their fans for helping break the taboo of miscarriage.
It's a heartbreaking story, but questions have been raised about its validity. Many were skeptical of the Raders, believing they were faking the miscarriage for attention.
Experts told BuzzFeed News that the method Sam used to administer the pregnancy test, with pee diluted in a toilet bowl, is not advisable. Sam told BuzzFeed News the couple never confirmed the pregnancy with a doctor.
"I would not recommend this method," Wendy White, M.D., a perinatologist at Mayo Clinic, told BuzzFeed News. "It would lead to false negatives, and theoretically could lead to false positives as well."
Dr. Fiona Clancy, the scientific and medical affairs director for Sure-Vue, the pregnancy test brand the couple used, echoed Dr. White's sentiment.
"This is definitely not a method we would recommend," she said. "Firstly, the urine will be diluted by the toilet water and in very early pregnancy this means the pregnancy hormone hCG may no longer be detectable by a home pregnancy test."
In a video posted the next day, Sam Rader said he quit his job as a nurse to focus on vlogging. But his employer, Texas Regional Medical Center, refuted the idea he quit to BuzzFeed News.
The Raders are no strangers to YouTube. The couple has been vlogging about their daily life for more than a year, posting a new video to their channel every day.
Their viral internet career began when Sam, 29, had an idea in March 2014 to create a video of himself and Nia, 26, singing to Frozen in their car, he told BuzzFeed News. The video, titled "Good Looking Parents Sing Disney's Frozen (Love Is an Open Door)," was a hit, and was viewed more than 20 million times.
Sam Rader told BuzzFeed News he knew the Frozen video would go viral, and afterward people told the couple they should start vlogging more often. So, they began posting daily vlogs to their channel, which they named "Sam and Nia."
The former ER nurse said he had a hunch that, just like the Frozen video, a video of him announcing his wife's pregnancy to her would also go viral.
"I was definitely hoping for it," he said. “I've always had a dream to be famous."
Sam decided to create the pregnancy test video, but he knew he needed to test his wife's urine when she wasn't looking. His wife made this easier, he said, because she doesn't flush the toilet at night to avoid waking their kids, 5-year-old Symphony and Abram, who's nearly 2.
He said he tested her urine on a few different occasions by using a dropper to draw it out of the toilet, but always got a negative result. Finally, he said, Nia texted him in the early morning as he was getting off work, and told him her period was two weeks late.
He tried it again, and this time he said the result was positive. He filmed himself doing the test, and then filmed his wife's and kids' reactions.
According to Dr. White, from the Mayo Clinic, this testing method isn't very reliable.
"If there is a chemical in the toilet, like a cleaner or bleach, the results would be affected," she said.
But she did say that "if you have 20 cc's of urine" – that is about half an ounce, much less than an average person would go – "in a liter of water, it will not be detected." Newer toilet bowls generally hold about 1.5 liters of water, a plumber who works near the couple's Texas town told BuzzFeed News.
In response to the experts' doubts, Sam told BuzzFeed News that he realizes he didn't do the test exactly how the instructions tell you to.
"Of course it's not the most accurate [way to do the test]," he said.
Sam said his wife had gone to the bathroom several times during the night without flushing the toilet, and also right before he did the test.
He also said that the couple did another test with undiluted urine, which is seen in the video but not explained. They use the same dropper to put the urine on the test but don't mention where it comes from.
With their most recent success, the Raders have received tons of support and media attention, which they've seemed to enjoy – the day after announcing the miscarriage, they posted a video where they tried (and failed) to use their fame to get into Legoland for free.
When it didn't work, Sam vented about the employee who denied them: "He didn’t recognize the video, so now we got a bunch of disappointed kids."
In the same video, Sam Rader announced to his wife that he had quit his job as a nurse at the Texas Regional Medical Center.
He told BuzzFeed News that even though he posted a video telling his wife he quit his job after their viral fame, he actually quit two weeks prior. He said the family was making enough money from vlogging and his side photography business to make ends meet.
When BuzzFeed News contacted the hospital, a human resources spokesperson confirmed that Rader has been employed at the hospital since February. However, she said there was no record of him quitting and as far as the hospital knows, he still works there.
When asked how long it would take for HR to receive an employee’s two weeks notice, the spokesperson said it varies but usually doesn’t take more than 48 hours.
Rader told BuzzFeed News that this discrepancy probably means the hospital must not have processed his paperwork yet. He added that he is technically still on the schedule for this week as part of his last two weeks of work, but that he called out because of his wife’s miscarriage.
A spokesperson for TubeMogul, an ad-buying software company, told BuzzFeed News the couple likely earns $9.60 per thousand non-skippable ad views, which could easily lead to a six-figure salary for the channel if they can maintain even just a fraction of their recent numbers. However, not every stream has an ad.
This isn't the first controversy for the young Texas couple: Just last month, a petition began circulating encouraging Naturebox to drop its partnership with the couple after they posted a now-deleted video called "Kids React to Gay Marriage."
According to the petition, the video showed them seeming to coerce their young daughter Symphony into saying that same-sex marriage is wrong after she says homosexual couples should be able to marry "if they want to."
Nicki Briggs, a spokesperson for Naturebox, told BuzzFeed News they dropped the partnership because of the couple's beliefs. "We don't support individuals who alienate specific groups, beliefs, or orientations," Briggs said.
The Raders later semi-apologized on Twitter and in a follow-up video.
Many commenters and former fans have begun to turn against the couple. Some write that their acting during the pregnancy videos seemed “fake” and it looked like they were crying alligator tears.
Their cheerfulness in their video the day after they said they miscarried, combined with Sam's glee at finally having enough success to quit his job, only added fuel to the fire.
Some pregnant women have even been so skeptical as to try out their pregnancy test method themselves: One stay-at-home mom, Lindsay Dove, told BuzzFeed News she's 33 weeks along and got a "faint positive" from the method.
Dove, who is 30 and has had two miscarriages, said she felt "off" after watching the video.
"I know that everyone deals with things different, but to me their video announcing it wasn't genuine, and I am reading a lot of people online tend to agree with that," she said.
A commenter on YouTube, Leesie1987, also wrote that she took a test and got a negative:
So, I'm 11 weeks pregnant and had my first positive pregnancy test at 4 weeks.... Anyway, I just took another test the way Sam did, using peed [sic] in toilet water, just for my own personal interest to see if it would work. Test came back negative...hmmm. I really don't know what to think of this couple.
One pregnant fan who took a pregnancy test in defense of the couple even filmed her test and posted about her positive result on YouTube.
Despite the polarized reaction to their videos, the Raders continue to insist that they don't care what the haters have to say, and that they're dedicated to their new goal of spreading awareness of miscarriages.
“Basically we don’t respond to that, the positivity outweighs the negativity," Sam said of the negative comments.
As for their future plans, Sam said he and his wife still want to have a third child.
“Our new journey is to keep trying to have another baby," he said.