Back in 2016, Hollyoaks actress Alex Fletcher told of her joy at giving birth weeks before her 40th birthday. Speaking exclusively to HELLO! at her home in Liverpool, the star showed off her baby son Hanson, who was born by caesarean section on 3 June 2016, weighing 8lbs 9oz. “I can’t believe he is really here,” said the actress. “When they lifted him up for me to see, I couldn’t believe his chubby cheeks. ‘That’s my boy,’ I thought. He looked like a real chunk.”
Her light and airy home in Liverpool was a hive of activity on the day of Hanson’s debut photoshoot for HELLO! Both Alex’s mother Pat and Jean, the mother of her physiotherapist husband Neil Davies, came over for the day to help out. “They have been amazing and I couldn’t have done it without them,” said Alex. Meanwhile, her 11-year-old daughter Yasmin had literally been left holding the baby – at least whenever she was given the opportunity.
“Yasmin is better with him than me at times,” said Alex, who rose to fame playing Jacqui Dixon in Brookside from the age of 12 to 27. “She has taken to it quite naturally – and it is like he has always been here. She adores him and has been a real help.”
For a while the previous year, Alex wondered whether this day would ever come. She was in no hurry to have another baby after Yasmin, until she realised her biological clock was ticking. “We completely enjoyed Yasmin and never contemplated having our children close together,” she explained. “But then it took me a while to get back to work and when the opportunity at Hollyoaks came up [in 2010] I thought I should concentrate on my career for a while – and suddenly turning 40 crept up and I thought, ‘I would love to have another child. I need to get my skates on’.”
Although she fell pregnant fairly quickly, she suffered a loss following an ectopic pregnancy. “Having the ectopic pregnancy last year was sad and scary,” she said. “It made me really negative and doubt that it would ever happen. I wondered whether things were not working properly because I was older. You think, ‘It’s my fault, have I been selfish?’ It made me realise how much I wanted another baby. Having gone through all that has made his arrival all the more precious.”
The couple, who found out the sex of their baby before he was born, decided on Hanson’s name four days before his arrival, leafing through a book of baby names. “I really liked Harrison but two of my best friends have boys called Harry, so I thought it might get confusing if his name was shortened,” explained Alex, who says there is something extra special that the new arrival is a boy.
“I really didn’t mind what I had, truly. I just felt blessed that I had got pregnant again. We love our Yasmin to bits and couldn’t imagine loving another little girl like we love her – but I am looking forward to the whole new experience of having a boy. I feel so lucky having one of each – and it is nice for Neil to have his lad. And to see him with his boy. He is madly in love with him.”
Alex met Neil, now 39, when he joined the cast of Brookside in 2000 to play Robbie Moffat. At the time, he was in his final year of a physio degree, after his professional football career was cut short due to injury. “He was only supposed to be in one episode but they just really liked him so he was there for two years. He was finishing his degree at the time and I always remember being really impressed how highly he spoke of his mum, sister and niece. And we just had such a laugh. He is my best friend.”
The couple married in 2003 and Neil was a key source of support when Alex fell into the doldrums a few years after having Yasmin, when she discovered getting back into work was not as simple as she had imagined. “I lost a lot of confidence when I took time off with Yasmin,” said Alex.
“I was offered a two-year contract at The Bill but I turned it down because I just wasn’t ready to launch myself back into that full-on rat race again. And I thought I missed my opportunity. Looking back, it was the right decision. But at the time it was awful. It wasn’t until Yasmin went to school that I seriously tried to turn things around. I trained as a fitness instructor to get my confidence back and Neil was great and encouraged me to run and get fit.
“I was very lucky to have worked from the age of 12 – but I didn’t stop until I was 26. And I don’t think I anticipated how I was going to feel when I had a baby. I just needed some time out, to spend time with my baby.”
She seemed to have taken to motherhood second time around with ease, including breast-feeding, which she wasn’t able to do with her first baby. “I had a bit of a rough time when I had my C-section with Yasmin and was in recovery for quite a long time and didn’t breast-feed. But with Hanson, I haven’t had a choice: he told me what was happening. I was out of theatre and couldn’t feel anything but he kind of just wriggled up my body and latched on. The midwife and staff at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital were wonderful and told me to go with it. And I haven’t looked back. It has been so natural.”
Is there time for one more, perhaps? “Two is nice,” Alex replies. “I feel lucky to have a boy and a girl and I really feel my family is complete… unless there are some surprises!”