The former Royal Harpist and husband Hywel Wigley introduce baby Ana Gwen to the world
IT'S a good measure of a person's pace of life when they say having a baby has made them calm and relaxed. Most couples would probably put the first month of parenthood right up there with death, divorce and disease as far as stressful levels go, as they struggle with previously unplumbed depths of exhaustion, responsibility and physical pain.
Not so Catrin Finch, 26, and husband, Hywel Wigley, 30. They appear to have sailed effortlessly into parenthood after the birth of their daughter, Ana Gwen, three days after Christmas. Being at home, looking after a baby, is a refreshing change for Catrin, one of the world's leading young harpists, who is used to a high-flying career touring and performing around the world.
She's also enjoying sharing the time with Hywel, 30 - son of her former harp teacher Elinor Bennett and Plaid Cymru politician Dafydd Wigley - who runs his own recording studio, Kissan Productions, from home.
Here they introduce us to the new member of the famous Welsh dynasty.
So, has your life changed?
Catrin: You hear all the clichŽs before the baby is born about your life never being the same again, and you never believe them. But they are all true - having a baby has completely changed my life. It's an amazing experience and Ana Gwen is the boss of this house now. Hywel had wanted a baby for some time and I wanted to be a young-ish mother so the time was about right.
Hywel: I think being a dad is fab - I love having little screaming matches with her, though they drive Catrin mad! I think a lot more about the future now and the urgency has gone away from the present. I am besotted with her!
How does having a baby compare with all your other many achievements, such as being appointed Royal Harpist?
Catrin: It is completely different from my musical achievements. It means 10 times more to me than anything else and puts the rest of our lives into perspective. Before Christmas, for example, I had lots of projects on the go and was quite stressed by them all. But I'm chilled about them now. I have a new priority and it's making me think so much more about what's important.
Are you enjoying your maternity leave?
Catrin: I've been officially off from October, until mid-February. I have been working in that time but not performing and I've been at home, rather than travelling. I'm really lucky because Hywel works from home and so we have been here together and held the fort between us. I've loved being home - it's given me the chance to do projects I've been planning for a long time. We were bonkers by the end of last year, running around all over the shop, but now Ana Gwen has arrived, I am actually quite relaxed and refreshed.
So what are these projects you've done at last?
Catrin: Well, they are all very exciting! I've set up an online academy for harp students which will be launched in April. It's the sort of thing I would have loved to have had when I was studying. Members will be able to download harp lessons, talk to me and guest musicians through an advice forum, access interactive lessons and performance tips and attend weekend workshops.
I've also released a new double album with my mother-in-law, Elinor Bennett. It's traditional harp, classical and folk music for mothers and babies. We've called it Little Angels/ Angylion Bach.
I've also been organising a concert with my big band, CF47, at St David's Hall in Cardiff on April 25. Then there's the chapel project.
What's that about? Are you buying a chapel?
Hywel: It's always been a dream of mine to convert a chapel. Chapels are such an integral part of our Welsh heritage and it's tragic to see so many of them closing down and becoming derelict. We are losing our cultural wealth and the millions of pounds' worth of craftsmanship that has gone into them. So when Horeb Chapel in Pentyrch was auctioned we bought it with the aim of converting the vestry into a music studio and using the chapel as a concert hall - the acoustics are fantastic - and art gallery. We also plan to keep it open as a chapel for the seven members it still has. We're not chapel-goers - I'm probably more Buddhist than anything - but we hope it will be something positive for the community.
Any signs of musical aptitude in Ana Gwen yet?
Catrin: She hasn't plucked any strings yet but she certainly likes the sound of the harp. Whenever she's grizzly I take her into the harp room, lie her on a chair and play. She soon goes to sleep. I'm not surprised it's soothing for her because for nine months she was inside me, hearing the harp right next to her, every day.
It will be difficult for her not to have something to do with music as she grows up surrounded by harps, pianos, guitars and a recording studio!
Hywel: I think she's got the lungs of a jazz singer and I quite fancy her chances as a rock drummer! She also hums A-flat when she's going to sleep! Still, I'd like to encourage her to be a tennis star - something a bit different!
You're both Welsh speakers, so what language will you speak to Ana Gwen?
Catrin: We want to bring Ana up bilingually, in Welsh and English. So at the moment we're having one Welsh day, when we speak Welsh all day to her, and then one English day. I always speak English with my family, Hywel always speaks Welsh with his, and we speak a bit of both to each other. We want Ana to go to a Welsh medium school and fortunately there is a really good one in the village, a minute from our house.
How did you choose names for the baby?
Catrin: Anna is my middle name and we both liked it. Then we went on a cruise while I was pregnant and met a Spanish woman called Ana who was very kind to us, so it seemed to be another sign. Gwen was just a Welsh name we liked that went well with Ana.
What's the hardest part of parenthood so far?
Catrin: Ana Gwen is a wonderful baby and seems very content most of the time, even sleeping for a good long stretch - six hours sometimes - in the nights. But the evenings are hard as she's very grumpy between 9pm and 11pm. Constant crying like that can really get to you. We've started taking it in turns to go out for a walk on our own for half-an-hour, just for a break.
How has your day-to-day life changed?
Catrin: Everything now revolves around Ana Gwen - when she needs to eat, sleep, be changed or bathed. She's in quite a strict routine so our day is structured and we can easily plan around her. Hywel and I have never had a routine so we're trying to mainstream it!
I'm used to unusual sleep patterns because of all the travelling I've done, so I've adapted to that well. Hywel does all the night nappies - he's a very hands-on dad! I'm getting good at doing everything one-handed as I cradle Ana Gwen in the other. When she's asleep, I make the most of the time to get on with things. I don't find these changes at all frustrating because I was prepared for them.
But looking after a baby is far more time-consuming than I had imagined. Simple tasks can take much longer than I'd realised. Changing a nappy, for example, can take 10 minutes and bath-time half-an-hour because she likes to kick around!
Are the grandparents suitably doting?
Catrin: Absolutely! Ana Gwen is the third grandchild for my parents. They live in Llanon and come down regularly. My mum is a good artist and painted a beautiful mural in the nursery.
Ana Gwen is the first grandchild for Hywel's parents and they are overjoyed. They have a house in Cardiff so come down quite a lot and are also a fabulous help. So far, Ana Gwen has had grandparents around most weeks. I really want her to have a close relationship with them all, rather than be people who live a long way away who we only see occasionally, as was the case with my grandparents.
Hywel has rigged up a webcam on the computer so the grandparents can see and talk to Ana when they're home, too. We'll be having a big family bash to look forward to in the summer, too, as Hywel's parents Dafydd and Elinor celebrate their Ruby wedding anniversary.
What do you plan to do with Ana Gwen when you start travelling and performing again?
Catrin: We plan to take her with us! We've bought a camper van - complete with kitchen and space for a harp, which makes the bed harp-shaped. Ana Gwen can come with me during rehearsals and we'll always have a base. I don't really want to be in the situation where I am away from Ana Gwen a lot of the time. I would prefer it if she and Hywel could come with me. I would not be happy leaving her with a nanny while I was away.
It's a big experiment but I think she'll enjoy being on the road, stopping where we like and taking diversions. It will be a real adventure.