Grace Park is a multi-tasking mama to a one-year-old little girl and founder of online patient-doctor portal, DocDoc. As a busy working mama, Grace and her husband have faced some significant health challenges in the first year of their daughter’s life. We chat to Grace about her gorgeous daughter, her strategies for maintaining her sanity and how she went from being a US Army Captain to being the CEO of her own company!
Can you tell us a little bit about your family, and the life changing events you are currently going through?
My husband, Cole and I welcomed our first baby, Rand Charis Sirucek into our family about a year ago. She was born a healthy baby girl but at her two-month-old check up she looked jaundiced. After a battery of tests, my husband and I were told the heart-breaking news that our little girl had a rare condition called Biliary Atresia and that she needed to undergo emergency surgery to stop further damage to her liver.
Nobody knows what causes Biliary Atresia but it is the leading cause for a child to need a liver transplant. Basically, Biliary Atresia is when the bile ducts shrink so that bile is unable to drain from the liver. Toxins and fluid were building up in her fragile, little body.
As the CEO of DocDoc, an online portal to connect patients to doctors, I found myself needing to find the right surgeon for my daughter. From my network, we were able to find Dr Tanaka and Dr Kiuchi, who are pioneers in live liver transplants in Singapore.
Our daughter went through the Kasai procedure, but her body did not respond well to the intervention. Six months later, I carried my daughter into the operating room, this time to undergo a liver transplant, with my husband Cole donating a piece of his own liver. My husband recovered fairly quickly (his liver regenerated in 9 weeks) and our daughter is progressing well. She is taking immune suppressants, but is tapering off on a weekly basis, which is encouraging.
It has been a whirlwind year! I feel blessed everyday to have a beautiful daughter and such a courageous husband, and I have even greater conviction that what I’m doing professionally, empowering patients to find the right doctors, has a special meaning and purpose.
How has your daughter’s health condition affected your perspective on family and mothering?
I read a lot of books to prepare myself on how to be the best mother possible. However, sometimes life takes us onto a different journey. It’s a matter of letting go of total control and allowing God to take care of the rest. I’ve been fortunate to have amazing helpers who love Rand and friends who have encouraged me throughout this journey.
How do you balance work, with caring for your daughter?
Balance is an interesting word because it could mean something different to everyone. I know that my daughter is receiving a lot of love and care at home. The “home care system” that my husband and I implemented works for us for now. My husband, who is also my Co-Founder at DocDoc and who also works on a hedge fund and two other real estate projects and mixed martial arts is a huge supporter at home. He loves spending time with Rand. My mother is also visiting from the US so it has been comforting to have family and helpers present to provide additional support.
When I’m at work, I’m quite focused but when I’m home, I try to let go of work and focus on being with my daughter. With one smile of hers, I am fully present.
How do you stay sane and keep on top of so many different things?
It definitely is not easy! It feels like I have twins – my work baby and my baby girl, Rand. I tend to be like a horse that can run itself to death, but I try to take time for myself to do what I enjoy, like going to church, scheduling massages, or reading books.
Favourite activity with your daughter in Singapore?
Rand is on heavy immune suppressants as part of her recovery phase so we’re careful not to take her out to crowded places. She does love the outdoors so we go to the Botanical Gardens almost daily.
Activity that I do not love to do but do it anyway because my daughter loves it…
She loves to bathe and splash water everywhere! She is also quite squirmy so it’s not always easy to do this but she smiles and is a chatterbox the entire time so it’s a fun time.
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
Well, undergoing two major surgeries within a year has definitely brought my husband and I closer together! These are definitely life changing events and it has been a miracle to see our daughter progress so well. Ordinary events like observing Rand’s first good poo and pee were major milestones for us to celebrate, just as much as any other usual baby milestone, like a first tooth or her first words.
Favourite date-night restaurants in Singapore?
There are many excellent restaurants in Singapore. For special occasions, Cole and I have gone to Valentino’s in the past. It’s an Italian family owned restaurant that has expanded. The food is yummy.
Can you talk us through your career pre and post babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?
I started my career as a US Army Officer after graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point. After serving for 5 years and achieving the rank of Captain, I embarked on a fresh challenge in the corporate world. The last decade I’ve spent in sales and marketing roles in global pharmaceutical and medical device companies, most recently as Managing Director in Asia. I took a three-year break to study at Harvard Business School and at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and then landed in Singapore on a Fulbright Fellowship in 2004. Two years ago, I launched my start-up, DocDoc. Actually, as soon as DocDoc was incorporated, I was pregnant, but I didn’t realize it at the time! It’s not easy to take any time off when starting a tech company – it is pretty full on. With my workload requirements however, I had to get back into the swing of things immediately after giving birth.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Singapore?
I believe that success is defined differently for everyone so it’s best not to compare with others but to go with what works for you. Otherwise, I like what Tony Horton of P90X says, “Do your best and forget the rest!”
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Learning from friends with teenagers, the next 12 years will be the most important in imparting values and establishing a solid foundation for Rand… so carpe diem! I look forward to making the most out of this amazing time with her. I read from research that the best thing I could do is to be a good role model for my daughter. For me that meant starting a company that empowers patients’ lives, and I hope that it inspires her to use her God-given talents to live life to the fullest.
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
All the other mamas I have met so far have been giving me excellent advice and were so much more knowledgeable in the mama department than I so this is a tough question to answer!
If you’re keen to go back to work, then go for it! I’d say that becoming a mother has taught me to become more empathetic, yet no nonsense as well as time management becomes a lot more critical. The key is to find a good team of colleagues (which I am fortunate to have!).
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Having some discipline in buying toys, books and clothes for Rand. Everything looks so cute and fun!
My most humbling mama moment was…
Once when I finished pumping a good amount of milk, which I was quite happy about, but then as I reached for the bottle to put the cap on, I accidentally knocked it over and split milk everywhere. I cried because I was quite exhausted, but I realized what I was doing – “crying over split milk!”
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
Whether Rand is awake, as I’d like to play with her and see her smile.
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…
Considering it was a whirlwind year with running a company and caring for my family through a liver transplant, I wasn’t able to hold back on anything. This meant little sleep and exercise. However in this upcoming year, I plan to take some time to be healthier and to be more energized for the long haul, for both my daughter and my business.
My favourite moment of the day is…
When I get a chance to see Rand wake up from her sleep. She looks as if she is about to cry but then realizes that I’m there and then I see the biggest frown turn into a megawatt smile with a squished nose. Averted cry makes mama happy.
Thanks Grace, and thank you to the fantastic Carolyn of Melia Photography for the fantastic photos of Grace and her daughter!