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Madonna may have struggled to convince FedEx of her real identity, but at home the singer's kids know exactly who she is — she's Mom, or "Mambo," as her four youngest call her.
The pop superstar and mom of six, who adopted 5-year-old orphaned twins Estere and Stella from Malawi earlier this year, opened up about her long and emotional adoption journey in a new interview with People magazine.
In 2008, the "Vogue" singer was already mom to daughter Lourdes, now 20 (with ex-boyfriend Carlos Leon), and son Rocco, now 17 (with ex-husband Guy Ritchie), when she traveled to Home of Hope, an orphanage in Malawi, to adopt another son, David, now 11.
Though she was eager to love and care for David — who was battling both pneumonia and malaria at the time — she was castigated when she brought him home to London, she said.
"Every newspaper said I kidnapped him," the singer, 59, told the magazine. "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."
It was a "low point," said the singer, who revealed she would cry herself to sleep.
The Grammy winner — who in 2006 co-founded Raising Malawi, a nonprofit that provides health services for Malawian orphans and children — soon returned to Malawi to adopt daughter Mercy, now 11. But the process again proved difficult. Because of her recent divorce from Ritchie, Malawian officials told her she was "not capable of raising a child," she said.
"The way I was treated — that sexist behavior — was ridiculous," recalled the singer, who challenged the refusal in Malawi's Supreme Court and won. She brought little Mercy home in 2009.
Adopting Estere and Stella this past February was no easier for the star, who says Malawian officials "don’t want to be perceived as giving me any kind of special treatment, so I get the hard road."
In July, the singer opened the Mercy James Centre for Pediatric Surgery and Intensive Care, Malawi's first children’s hospital.
"It’s complicated, but it’s so worth it," the proud mom said of her adoption journey.
Seven months later, Estere and Stella fit right in with the busy family. "It’s like they’ve always been here," Madonna told People.
And, like their siblings, they're not impressed that mom's the Queen of Pop.
"They don’t have a clue,” she said. "And that’s a good thing. I’m just their mother."