Two years ago, Jackie Hance lost everything when all three of her daughters died in a gruesome wrong-way car crash on New York's Taconic Parkway. But today, she is pregnant again after undergoing in vitro fertilization in a twist of fate that she says came from a dream about her beloved daughters.
Hance, 40, of Floral Park, N.Y., announced her pregnancy just as HBO is ready to air its own documentary, "Something's Wrong With Aunt Diane," on the drunk-driving accident.
The girls were killed on their way home from a camping trip in upstate New York when their aunt, Diane Schuler, 36, drove 70 mph down the wrong side of the parkway for two miles before slamming her SUV head-on into another vehicle.
Toxicology reports showed that Schuler's blood alcohol level was twice the limit -- the equivalent of 10 shots of vodka -- and she was high on marijuana.
Just minutes before the deadly crash, Hance's daughter, Emma, had called her mother to say, "Something's wrong with Aunt Diane."
Hance's girls, Emma, 8; Alyson, 7; and Katie, 5, as well as Schuler and her 2-year-old daughter Erin died instantly. Three men in the other vehicle also died, a total of eight people. The only survivor was Schuler's son Bryan, 5.
"Parenting is not something you can ever let go of, even if your children are gone," Hance wrote in the Ladies Home Journal this week.
Hance is expecting her baby in September. But psychologists say having a baby too soon after the death of a child is no panacea for grief.
Hance writes that her friends persuaded her to have another child as a way of coping with the "torture" that she has felt since her girls died, unable even to cook because it reminds her of her daughters' excitement at mealtime.
"After the accident so many people suggested that Warren and I consider having another child. They said having a baby was what the girls would want and it would give us a future," she writes.
Experts say the term "replacement child" is a cruel one, suggesting that a parent wipes out the agonizing grief of the death of one child with the birth of another.
Just last year, actors John Travolta, 57, and his wife Kelly Preston, 48, had a baby boy, Benjamin, after the loss of their 16-year-old son Jett in 2009 after he had a seizure at their vacation villa in the Bahamas.
So, too, did former presidential candidate John Edwards and his then-wife Elizabeth after the death of their son Wade in a North Carolina car crash. The had two children, Emma, now 13, and Jack, 11.
When a child dies, many parents have a "natural urge" to have another, according to Katherine Shear, professor of psychiatry and social work at Columbia University who specializes in complicated grief.
"A lot of parents do wish to have another child to come to terms with the loss," she said. "After they've accepted the loss, it's a very natural part of life and can be a very healing thing to do."
"When they do this, it's usually with a little bit of sadness and trepidation even when they know it's the right thing for them, and I don't think we should judge them," she said. "When they make that decision, it's a hard one to make and we should primarily support them."