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Some Kind of Rebirth

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Susan wakes slowly, wincing at the bone-deep soreness she feels in every inch of her body. The pain is somehow both familiar and bittersweet, although she can't remember why.

When she opens her eyes and sees her husband sitting in chair opposite her hospital bed, cradling their newborn daughter in his arms, she remembers. This is the first time she's given birth in this body grown to adulthood a second time, but evidently there are some things the body remembers, even if she has tried to bury those memories as deep as possible.

In her life, Susan has witnessed all kinds of childbirth, from litters of puppies born in the palace kennels, to dryads welcoming new saplings to their groves, to the rare foaling of a unicorn. Lucy was the Healer, but Susan was the Gentle Queen, and so she accompanied her sister to the birthing of all kinds of Narnians. She was there to help, and to lend comfort to the mother, to rejoice with her in the birth of a healthy child, or to grieve with her if things did not go well. She has been present at the births of Beasts and Birds, of Dwarfs and Nymphs, of Fauns and Centaurs, and of humans too – her own children, delivered by Lucy’s hands, in Susan’s own bed in Cair Paravel.

None of those births, though, were as strange and foreign and frightening as childbirth in hospital. Wheeled away from her husband, all alone, drugged into sleep and not even conscious while her child was born. She had woke after the birth, to see her daughter for just a moment before the baby was whisked away, and then Susan drifted off into that horrible drugged sleep again. And now she remembers her dreams - dreams of losing this child as she had lost her others, gone forever in a split second, and her despair as she realized that she would never see them again.

But the dreams were just that, and her daughter is right here, safe in her father's arms, and Susan breathes a sigh of relief. She takes a moment to observe before her husband notices that she’s awake, watching as he marvels when the baby wraps her tiny fist around his enormous finger, whispering softly to her, “Look how strong you are, my darling! Wait until Mummy is awake and she sees that!”

She sighs again – she hasn't been "Mummy" in such a long time – and her husband looks at her and smiles. "You're awake. You can't imagine what a battle I've had with the nurses, getting them to agree to let the baby sleep in the room with you."

She had insisted on this, after hearing stories from friends of their babies being taken away to sleep in nurseries. She can't imagine she'll ever want her daughter to leave her sight. "Thank you, love," she says, sitting up and reaching out for the baby.

"So… have you decided on a name yet?" her husband asks, as he gently places the baby in her arms.

Susan doesn’t respond right away, instead focusing on her daughter, tracing a fingertip lightly over the curves of her face. The dark blue eyes, the soft, paper-thin skin, the tuft of downy hair on her head - Susan blinks back tears as she remembers her other babies, how much they looked like this new daughter. But then she looks again, touching a tiny birthmark under the baby’s ear, looking at the shape of her nose, and her mouth with its delicate, pouting lips, and she realizes this child is already very different from her others, very much her own person. And Susan, who has been both longing for, and at the same time, dreading the birth of this child, suddenly feels her heart racing in the anticipation of something new – a new life, with her new daughter, a new chance, a new love.

She thinks about her husband’s question. They've talked about names before, and he suggested naming the baby after her brothers or sister, but she said no. The grief is not as raw as it once was, but there isn't room in heart, not now, (not ever, some small voice inside her says), for another Peter or Edmund or Lucy.

She has thought of Narnian names for this child, like the names she gave to her others. But just like with her siblings, she cannot think of giving their names to a new baby. That is another grief she is not ready to bury yet, even though she lost them so long ago. And Narnian names don't really belong in England.

But there is a name that she thinks of now, a name that belongs in this world, but recalls the life she used to live, in that other one. A name that brings to mind wild places and talking animals, a name for a goddess, a name for an archer. She will give her daughter this name, and she will tell her stories of another life, another world, and Susan will teach her all the things she learned in Narnia, all the ways she still lives as Queen, here in exile. And in this way, like Susan, she will belong to both places.

Susan looks at her husband and smiles. "Yes. Diana. Her name is Diana."