Madonna Opens Up About Adoption Journey

20042248 Madonna and family. daughter Mercy James, Son David Banda, twins Estere (with scarf around head as headband) and Stella (in hat) Older kids Rocco & Lourdes Photographed in Malawi at for the opening of Madonna's new hospital there. July 2017. Credit: Shavawn Rissman Do not use without permission from: Sara Zambreno 310-918-9070 Do not use without permission from: Approval required for reuse! Brian Bumbery 323.904.9094 Sara Zambreno 310-918-9070

Material Mom Madonna covers the latest issue of PEOPLE with four of her children — David, 11, Mercy, 11, and 5-year-old twins Estere and Stella — and opens up about family life with her six kids, including daughter Lourdes, 20, and 17-year-old son Rocco.

On adopting David Banda at Home of Hope, an orphanage in Malawi: “Every newspaper said I kidnapped him. In my mind, I was thinking, ‘Wait a minute. I’m trying to save somebody’s life. Why are you all s—-ing on me right now?’ I did everything by the book. That was a real low point for me. I would cry myself to sleep.”

On adopting Mercy from Malawi after divorcing Guy Ritchie: “[They claimed] I was not capable of raising a child. The way I was treated — that sexist behavior — was ridiculous. I’ve had some pretty dark moments, but I’m a survivor.”

On adopting Estere and Stella also from Malawi: “Because I’m a public figure, people don’t want to be perceived as giving me any kind of special treatment, so I get the hard road. It’s complicated, but it’s so worth it.”

On Estere and Stella: “It’s like they’ve always been here.”

On their mom being the Queen of Pop: “They don’t have a clue, and that’s a good thing. I’m just their mother.”

For more from Madonna, go to PEOPLE

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