Laura Dern Expecting Her Second Child

The actress and her boyfriend, musician Ben Harper, are to become parents again

Laura Dern and musician Ben Harper are expecting their second child by year’s end, her publicist tells PEOPLE.

Harper and Dern – who are already the parents of Ellery Walker Harper, who turns 3 in August – just returned from Europe, where she joined Harper and his band, the Innocent Criminals, for his tour from the U.K. to Spain. Dern’s next appearance on the big screen will be with We Don’t Live Here Anymore, costarring Mark Ruffalo and Naomi Watts, opening Aug. 13.

Shortly after the arrival of Ellery, Dern, 37, seemed the happiest of moms, PEOPLE reported in 2002. She and Harper met at one of his concerts in fall 2000 while he was separated from his wife of four years, Joanna. (They divorced in 2001.) His children with Joanna – son Charles and daughter Harris – visit him often.

At the time they met, Dern was rebounding after learning from tabloid reporters that her then-fianc Billy Bob Thornton had a relationship with Angelina Jolie (that resulted in a subsequent marriage that was short-lived).

“Something that one might have thought would destroy her made her stronger,” said singer Melissa Etheridge, a close friend. “When she told me she was pregnant (with Ellery), she was very proud and very excited. She was saying, ‘This is the next new chapter in my life.'”

Dern, whose past loves included former costars Kyle MacLachlan (1986’s Blue Velvet) and Jeff Goldblum (1993’s Jurassic Park), has said repeatedly that she and Harper have no plans to wed.

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