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Society

Mom Reunites With Three Kids She Abandoned

| by Nik Bonopartis

A California woman was reunited with three of her children, who were each abandoned and left with strangers shortly after their mother gave birth.

The children -- who are now adults -- were able to link up with each other and find their mom with the help of ABC's show "20/20," which is scheduled to air their story on May 6.

"I'm tired of hiding, I really am," Joann Hauser, the mother, told "20/20" reporter Elizabeth Vargas in a preview of the segment.

Genetic genealogist CeCe Moore helped the show and the children piece together their family and meet for the first time.

Hauser told "20/20" she became pregnant with Janet Barnicoat, the oldest of the three children, when she was 22 years old. She had just gotten divorced after a short-lived marriage and already had two young sons, she said, when she gave birth to Barnicoat, who is now 34 years old.

Hauser delivered the baby alone in the bathtub of her home while her two sons were asleep.

"I was terrified," she said. "I remember it was around 4:00 in the morning she was born. So nobody was awake, and I did it by myself ... I'm like, 'What am I going to do? What am I going to do?'"

She told the program she was on welfare and barely scraping by, and felt she could not care for another child, so she went to police and told them she'd discovered the baby. Barnicoat was eventually adopted by a couple about 100 miles away, according to "20/20."

"I felt if someone else had her, they could give her a better life than I could," Hauser told Vargas.

Five years later, Hauser gave birth to another baby, the now-31-year-old Julie Hutchison. A year after Hutchison's birth, Hauser delivered a third child -- Dean Hundorf, now 29.

Hauser said she left Hutchison outside a convenience store where she hoped the baby would be found, and she dropped Hundorf off on a neighbor's porch, hoping for the best for the newborn.

She blames a lifestyle of partying and drugs for her inability to care for the three children she abandoned, and said her actions weighed on her heavily for the rest of her life.

All three children have different fathers, and in each case, Hauser was secretive, delivering the children without help. When she delivered Hutchison, she was preparing a birthday party for one of her sons.

"That was very difficult," Hauser said. "I felt like I was the biggest hypocrite in the world, you know? How could I be celebrating one birth and just do what I just did to another precious child? How could I do that?"

The episode will show Hauser reuniting with her three adult children. It's not the first time Hauser and Barnicoat have met, and not the first time they've been on "20/20."

In 2013, the show helped Barnicoat reunite with Hauser -- but without knowing Hauser was Barnicoat's mother. It turned out that when Hauser concocted the story about finding a baby for the benefit of police 34 years ago, the local media got wind of the incident, and ran stories hailing her as an "angel of mercy" and a hero for saving the infant's life.

Hauser was cornered into going along with that lie, and kept up the fiction for more than three decades until Moore, the genealogist, discovered that Hauser was Barnicoat's mother -- and that the mother who had abandoned her baby and the hero who had saved the baby were the same person.

"I can handle it," Barnicoat said in the 2013 segment, just after Moore revealed her parentage, "it just breaks my heart."

Sources: ABC News (2) / Photo credit: ABC News

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