I understand why it is so important for us women to have children and replenish the earth, but why must we suffer so much? Why does giving birth have to be so painful, and in a lot of cases deadly? Menstruation, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, menopause… I know men and women are meant to be equals, but it seems to me that women have to suffer and put up with a lot more physically than men do.
Being a man, perhaps I am not the best person to answer this question. However, I do have some thoughts to share that I hope you will find helpful. You speak of women, but the question of “why is this so hard” is not unique to women. Many people both within the church and without have also pondered on this topic. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a wonderful answer. He was talking about missionary work, but his answer applies to all who pause to ask “why”.
“Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?
You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.
. . . If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, “Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,” then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way. Missionary Work and the Atonement
I believe Heavenly Father allows suffering in this world when He knows that some benefit can come from it. There are times He intervenes, and there are times He does not. Some are experience miraculous healing, and others leave this mortal experience. What could we gain from suffering? Each person is unique, and so each experience, though they may seem similar, is unique as well. But the Lord knows us each individually, and He can use our adversities to help us become more like the Savior. President James E. Faust gave an example of this, specifically about motherhood, when he said:
“[O]ne of the great schoolmasters for overcoming selfishness is parenthood. Mothers go into the valley of the shadow of death to bring forth children. Parents work hard and give up so much to shelter, feed, clothe, protect, and educate their children.”
As to your question about women suffering more than men, I would just say that we really can’t know if your comparison is correct or not. I’m reminded of two widows comparing their husbands deaths. One was certain that to lose a husband to cancer, a slow, lingering death was the hardest. The other was just as adamant that losing a spouse to a heart attack, quick, unexpected–with no chance to say good-bye was worse. Which one was right? I would say neither. Losing a spouse is a terribly difficult thing, comparing who’s suffered more does nothing to ease the grief that each feels. Each would be better to turn to the Lord with their suffering and allow Him to ease their burdens.
This life is not easy, it was not meant to be. But rather than compare our trials to others, we should strive to emulate the Savior by turning to heavenly help in our trials, and by mourning with those who mourn.