Understanding Travoltas' 'Replacement' Child

As the child's protector, we have "basically failed at the task" if a child dies, according to Rando. "We are assaulted. There is a sense of powerlessness and inability to carry out our role as parents."

Have a Subsequent Child, Not a Replacement

Having another child after the "work of grieving" is over, can be a good idea, but not to replace the loss.

"The new pregnancy should not be an attempt to deal with the sadness," she said. "They will see this new little person as a distinct member of their family."

As for the Travoltas, "We would want them not to forget Jett, he will always be an absent member of the family," said Rando. "But the new baby should not feel he has to be Jett."

While it is healthy to have a "subsequent child," it is not psychologically wise to have a "replacement child," said Rando, "imposing the dead child's identity" on the new baby.

Such was the case wth Angel Renee Smith, not her real name, who was born after the death of her older sister Renee and given her middle name.

According to Gerald P. Koocher, dean of the School of Health Sciences at Simmons College in Boston and an expert in the psychology of death, the dynamics of having replacement child range from "healthy" to "bizarre."

"Angel grew up with the persistent knowledge that she had replaced a sister she had never known," said Koocher.

"Angel is now a practicing psychologist, one of my former students, and very well adjusted, although she got into psychology in part because she thought that the naming was a bit creepy and wanted to understand what her mom was going through."

But having another child can sometimes fulfill the dreams of a complete family.

"It's not a replacement child, it's a reconstituted family," said " target="external">Dr. Richard Paulson, director USC Fertility in Los Angeles.

"Because that person is gone, you don't replace that person," he said. "I have formed a family and always had an image of a family with so children and now something bad has happened. After I had it taken away, I still want to have a family with two children and I can make that happen by having another child."

"It's like saying, 'If my wife died, I will get a replacement wife.' I like being married and living in that setting," said Paulson.

Gossip columnists have speculated that Kelly Preston, who is past her fertile prime, sought "help" to get pregnant. Reporter Paula Froelich said the couple likely made a "concerted effort" to have another child.

Travolta publicist Paul Bloch of the Los Angeles agency Rogers and Cowan had no comment on whether Preston had in vitro fertilization with an egg donor. The couple had told People magazine that they were thinking of having a third child as far back as 2007.

"The biological clock is nearly over at the age of 47," said Paulson. "Usually you can get pregnant on your own, it does happen. But it's not very probable."

The oldest woman who ever conceived with her own eggs was 57 and is recorded in Guinness World Records, according to Paulson. In his clinic, the oldest such pregnancy was 45.

"If [Preston] came to me with regular periods, I would say, 'Go try on your own.' After that, then go to egg donation. No other medical intervention is a proven success at 47, but that doesn't mean it's impossible."

Paulsen said he had worked with many patients seeking another pregnancy after the death of a child, but "not so quickly" as Preston and Cameron.

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