After becoming a new mum, the first year of having a bub is a huge, life-changing adjustment for most women.
But for Samantha Bulmer, who was paralysed hours before she gave birth, these 12 months have been the hardest of her life.
‘Every time people hear my story they can’t believe it,’ 34-year-old Sam tells New Idea.
‘To find out you’ll be in a wheelchair for life and have a baby the same week is pretty hard to get your head around.’
In June 2017 an abnormal cluster of blood vessels in Samantha’s spine, known as an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), ruptured when she was 37 weeks pregnant.
‘I thought I was dying,’ Sam told New Idea at the time. ‘The pain was intense and I was terrified for myself and my baby.
‘None of the doctors knew what was happening to me. I’d been brought in able to walk and now I couldn’t.’
Sam spent a terrifying night in hospital and it was only the next day, when she had an MRI scan, that specialists could see what was happening.
Sam’s growing uterus had put pressure on the cluster of blood vessels in her spine.
‘It had ruptured, crushing my spinal cord and paralysing me from the waist down,’ she explains.
Previously, completely healthy and with an uncomplicated pregnancy, Sam assumed this was a temporary issue and easily fixed.
But as they talked, she realised the doctors were shaking their heads.
Later medics told her it was likely she’d be paralysed for good.
‘The AVM was so deep that an operation risked death or quadriplegia,’ she previously said.
‘In that instant, my world fell apart. How could I be the mummy I’d envisaged if I couldn’t walk?’
Even after Sam’s baby girl, River, was delivered there was nothing the specialists could do to repair her spine.
Now, Sam takes a pragmatic approach to her situation.
‘I can’t change what’s happened and I can’t fix it,’ she says simply.
‘I could have gone home and been miserable but I’ve chosen to focus on the positives.’
And the main one is her beautiful little daughter.
‘River’s always happy,’ Sam smiles. ‘She a very determined and adventurous little girl but she’s also very patient with me.’
After three months in hospital Sam spent six months in rehab but the independence she hoped to gain wasn’t achieved.
‘Because the spasms in my legs are so severe I need assistance transferring into and out of my wheelchair,’ Sam sighs.
Moving into a modified home in February, she was also provided with carers, including a full-time nanny for River.
‘I can do everything for River but she provides the back up. River is into everything at the moment. It won’t be long before she’s walking and I can’t wait. I’m so excited for her.’
Sam and her partner split a few weeks after River was born but he remains in their lives and is one of the reasons Sam won’t move back to her family in the UK.
‘It’s been hard without them but my grandma, Beryl, is coming out for River’s birthday. We will bake a jungle-themed cake and celebrate with a party and jumping castle.’
Despite her challenging situation, Sam says she ‘wouldn’t change a thing’ and thinks her positive mindset has served her well in getting through the last year. ‘In future I’d love to counsel and help others who end up in my situation,’ she says.
‘I believe that I’m pretty strong and I want to share that strength.’