I don’t often review prose, though my favorite medium to write/read is the short story; however numerous articles on quality v quantity of the price of literature have made me revise my way of thinking. At last month’s L.A. Times Festival of Books, which was, sadly bereft of many small presses, I came across one author who’d partnered with another author friend to cheerfully hawk their literary wares to passersby. I picked up a copy of The Blood Room ( © 2013 Evil Gal Productions), by Mere Smith, a short (40 pages), witty and almost way-too-frank tale about giving birth.
The Blood Room is not about Smith’s foray into motherhood, but her younger sister’s, who, against all commonly accepted odds (common in the sense of universally anecdotal medical evidence), becomes pregnant with just “one embryo” because her sister only wants “one baby.” Smith, a forthright independent soul, often finds her own preferences and moral values challenged in the face of her sister’s pregnancy (no smoking in the house, no drugs allowed on the premises, numerous cameras installed in her sister’s basement to film the home birth). Demands on Smith (and Smith’s mother) advance along with the pregnancy, but in spite of this, Smith rises to every challenge, even into the hours of her sister’s active labor, with a mixture of humor and mounting frustration:
So there I was, looking into that miniature grimy lake, heat radiating off my skin, knee throbbing, muscles screaming, adrenaline coursing yet still exhausted, feeling more than a touch light-headed, when all of a sudden my guts tried to pole-vault their way out of my mouth, right into the AquaDoula.
Thank God the first leap was small - aided by the fact I was so surprised by it, I quickly gasped for a deep breath that seemed to quell the second heave.
It was only then that I realized, Holy shit! You almost just puked on your sister!
The next micro-second brought, Goddammit, Mere, if she can endure 22 hours of full body torture, the least you can do is not vomit in the water her baby will be born in.
Marshaling every last ounce of self-control, i turned away - one hand keeping a cold towel still pressed to my sister’s forehead, one hand wiping sweat off my face with my T-shirt.
I would not leave her.
I would not.
And if that meant I had to puke on the floor right next to her, in front of her husband and our mother and the doula and the midwife and the midwife’s assistant and the cameras, then so be it. I would puke on the fuking floor.
For those of us who’ve decided not to, or have not yet had children, being not only proximate to a sibling giving birth, or in the case of Smith, an intimate part of the process, will be life-changing (Fun fact: I was just outside the door of my sister’s hospital room the moment she gave birth to my nephew Alexander. I heard it! It changed my life forever, and for the better). In The Blood Room, Smith is more than willing to graphically kvetch about the blood and gore that comes with giving birth, but she also gives to the reader, in equal measure, the wonderful and painful details of her own emotional growth.
There are no best-selling Congratulations on Your Impending Aunthood, or What to Expect When Your Sibling is Expecting books out there, but The Blood Room will more than suffice for those who are about to go through this process, or who are curious about it. As for the length of the book, The Blood Room is a perfectly written encapsulated tale of transformation, and in this case, quality totally triumphs over quantity.
The Blood Room, Mere Smith, © 2013 Evil Gal Productions,http://evilgalproductions.com/, ISBN 0989813606, $4.99, 40 pages.
artwork and prose content © 2014 Mere Smith
article content © 2014 marie lecrivain