"I have never worked so hard for anything in my life," she says, "and I've never been given such a hard time"

Madonna says her efforts to adopt 13-month-old David Banda in Malawi were so difficult, both logistically and emotionally, that she repeatedly considered giving up.

“Every day I thought, ‘OK, forget it. We’ll find a family here to look after him,’ ” she tells Time magazine in a new interview. “I just (kept) thinking, ‘Oh god, I don’t want to get too attached, because what if it doesn’t happen?’ ”

The singer lashes out at the media throughout the interview. “There’s a lot of Brits – reporters on the street – who’ve said, ‘Why don’t you adopt a kid from Britain?’ Or, ‘Why did you adopt a black child?’ So a lot of people’s hangups and ‘isms’ are sort of mixed into this, too. It’s just kind of a cocktail for disaster in terms of media perception.”

She continues, “It was one f–ing thing after the next, everywhere we went. So the idea that people think I got a shortcut or an easy ride is absolutely ludicrous. I have never worked so hard for anything in my life, and I’ve never been given such a hard time. And my celebrity has worked against me in every way.”

If you’re a famous person who’s trying to make a difference in the world, she adds, “you’d better be prepared to find yourself in the headquarters of hell.”

All the energy given to speculation about her motives clouded the real issues, Madonna says. “What (the media) should care about is that there are over a million orphans in Malawi, and following me around is just a gross misappropriation of attention and money.”

She doesn’t mince words over charges that she is jumping on a bandwagon with her work in Malawi. “I’m saving people’s live,” she says. “And whether I have earned the right to do it, or the respect of people who think I may not have the right to do it, is completely and utterly irrelevant.”

As a performer, Madonna has taken plenty of criticism, most recently for a crucifixion scene in her latest set of concerts. But the attacks levied during the adoption were fundamentally different, she says.

“In all those other hazing periods, people were just trying to f–k with me. Now they’re going into a village and terrorizing innocent people who live simple lives, terrorizing the father, terrorizing the children that I already have. There are a lot of people who are indirectly being affected by it. That’s the difference.”

NBC will air a two-hour Madonna concert special, without the cruxifixion scene, on Nov. 22.