The speaker of the poem is the poet, Gillian Clarke, herself. Clarke opens the poem by addressing her real-life daughter, Catrin, directly (Catrin is "you" throughout the poem) and describing the day she gave birth.
She doesn't come right out and say that she's in labor in these lines, however, and it takes a beat to become clear that this is indeed what's happening. The speaker doesn't say "I can remember giving birth to you." Instead, she says, "I can remember you, child," making it sound like her daughter is already there; she already has a strong presence alongside the speaker in this "hot, white / Room," despite not being born yet. Calling her daughter "child" also establishes the speaker's authority over her daughter (which will make more sense at the poem's end, when readers realize that the speaker is reminiscing about all this after her daughter has asked to stay out later).
This "hot, white / Room" refers to a hospital room—a space with white, sterile walls. This room is hot, perhaps, because the speaker is warm from the effort of labor—or maybe the building's ventilation system isn't up to snuff. Either way, this imagery doesn't make the room seem like a comfortable, welcoming space where one would want to hang out for too long.
Adding to the tension is the fact that the speaker recalls standing, rather than lying in a hospital bed. It sounds like she's still in the relatively early stages of labor at this point, or that her labor has been going on for some time. In any case, she's able to walk around as she waits for the baby's arrival to become more imminent.
She remembers looking out of the room's "window" at the streets below, filled with both people and traffic. Normal life is happening outside of the room, while the speaker remains stuck within, waiting to be transformed by one of the most important events of her life.
The crisp /t/ alliteration and consonance of these opening lines make them sound sharp and spiky: "stood," "hot, white," "watching," "taking / Turns at the traffic lights." All in all, readers get the sense that the speaker was uncomfortable, anxious, and perhaps a bit excited as she waits for her daughter to arrive.
A free verse poem, "Catrin" doesn't follow a rhyme scheme or regular meter. It also features quite a bit of enjambment, as in lines 2-5 here:
As I stood in a hot, white
Room at the window watching
The people and cars taking
Turn at the traffic lights.
The poem snakes down the page, evoking the smooth flow of the speaker's thoughts, the fluid bond between mother and child, and the relentless forward pull of time.