The tree of life, the Skeptical OB, and the idol of outrage

Skeptical OB Amy Tuteur, own-foot-shooter extraordinaire, continues to blur the really quite bright line between living one’s life and cheering for the death of others.

She took her post down after a well-deserved angry backlash, but here’s the image she posted this morning on her Facebook page:


Need a little background? I’ll try, but hold onto your butts. It’s stupid.

A bunch of breastfeeding moms have been using some art app to add a “tree of life” overlay to photos of themselves feeding their babies.

It doesn’t quite, quite make sense to me as an image, in part because I don’t like to think of things growing inside my baby’s head. Too many “a spider crawled into her ear when she was sleeping” stories in my youth, maybe. Also, the root part on the breast reminds me of varicose veins, which are completely non-heartwarming.

Anyway, whatever, whatever, breastfeeding is good and beautiful, overall, and when we show pretty pictures of it, it helps moms and others feel less weird about doing it and living alongside it; and that’s a good thing, especially since breastfeeding is still seen in some quarters as weird or sexually perverted or immodest or gross or backward or too much of a hassle to stick with.

So, in response to this photo trend, a bunch of bottle-feeding mothers decided to share images of a tree growing in their babies’ heads, too, with the message “FED IS BEST.” This message is also fine and good, because in some quarters, women say in so many words that formula is poison, and that there is no excuse for not breastfeeding; or they say that there is sometimes an excuse, but it’s something that should only be resorted to once you’ve basically come within five inches of dying through your pathetically failed efforts to breastfeed. Which is all repulsive, dangerous nonsense. I’ve spoken before about what a wretched, miserable thing this is to do, especially when it’s presented by as a moral issue by Catholics who claim some authority.

(And of course some smartasses have been making images of their babies drinking Pepsi and eating Cheetos, because that’s their tree of life. As someone whose very first blog post from eleven years ago featured my toddler eating out of the kitchen garbage can, I must recuse myself from commenting further on this trend.)


Now, I am quite sure that some women have been sharing images of of their baby’s milk-tree-heads with the overt intention of shaming bottle-feeders. Lots of women really allow themselves to tell other women: This, and this alone, is beautiful. I am doing the one and only right thing, and anyone who does otherwise should have the title “mother” forcibly removed from her, since she is a calorie-provider at best, like one of those auto-feeders you leave with your hamster when you go on vacation. 

But there are plenty of other breastfeeding women who are just . . . showing pictures of their babies nursing because they love their babies, love nursing, and have discovered that when you sit down to breastfeed, you still have one hand free, and can do things like take pictures and apply overlays to them. And that’s it.

Sometimes people are just living their lives. They’re not always living their lives at you.  It’s not “shaming” to simply do what you do in public, even if what you do is different from what other people do.

When we see “shaming” and aggression when there is no such intent, it makes it all the harder for everyone to simply live, because sensible people throw up their hands in frustration and refuse to waste any more time sending rational discourse into a howling whirlwind of outrage. Dr. Amy has made a nice living pushing back against the nonsense that goes sloshing around the world of women’s medicine; but all too often, she and her more strident followers make an idol of their outrage, and end up discrediting themselves and their cause.

Perpetual victim status quickly becomes an idol, and it makes us cruel and self-centered. Idol worship is wrong for many reasons, not least of all because it blinds us to the things and people that really do deserve our time, energy, devotion — or, in some cases, our outrage.

And that’s why Dr. Amy wins the Super Not Helping award for the day! Pbbbbbt. Here’s the real deal: If you’ve suffered some kind of injustice at the hands of others, it should make you more sensitive to the suffering of others, and not less.

Just so we don’t end on an growly note, I have to tell you this: Yesterday, Corrie was nursing, and then popped off, smiled at me, put her ear up to my nipple, and said, “Heddo?”

No response yet from the nipple, but I expect it to have its own Facebook page soon.

FYI, you can buy your own horse’s ass trophy, and personalize it if you like, here.