California Mom Reveals Why She Abandoned 3 Babies at Birth 3 Separate Times
Joann Hauser has lived with a secret she alone knew about for three decades. She said she had never told anyone -– until now.
“I’m tired of hiding, I really am,” Hauser told ABC News “20/20.”
For the first time ever, Hauser is coming forward and admitting she had three children, each of whom she abandoned shortly after giving birth, three separate times.
Now, not only have those three children found each other all these years later, “20/20” and genetic genealogist CeCe Moore helped reunite the fractured family and arranged for Hauser to meet them for the first time.
“It’s not easy to face, it really isn’t,” she said.
Watch the full story on ABC News “20/20” TONIGHT at 10 p.m. ET.
In the 1960s, Hauser said she had dropped out of college and embraced the Los Angeles party scene.
“We were partying all the time, smoking pot and drinking,” she said.
At age 22, Hauser said she got married and had two boys, but the marriage quickly fell apart. She said she got divorced and fell back into her partying ways. It was at a party where she conceived her first daughter, Janet Barnicoat, now 34.
“I was extremely fearful when I got pregnant,” Hauser said. “I just never felt like I could tell anybody.”
Nine months later, Hauser said she gave birth to Janet in the bathtub of her home by herself while her two sons slept in the next room.
“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?'”
Already on welfare and feeling unable to care for any more children, Hauser said she came up with a plan to abandon her newborn baby by pretending to find the infant in a public place and turning her over to police. Janet ended up being adopted by a couple 100 miles away in the same state of California.
“I felt if someone else had her, they could give her a better life than I could,” Hauser said.
The guilt of giving up Janet nearly crushed her, Hauser said, but five years later she found herself in the exact same position, giving birth to her second daughter, Julie Hutchison, now 31, who was also later adopted.
It was the same day as one of Hauser’s son’s birthdays, so Hauser said she gave birth, dropped newborn Julie off in a place she felt she would be found outside of a convenience store and went back to throw her son a birthday party.
“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 following year, Hauser found herself pregnant again with her third son, Dean Hundorf, now 29.
“I remember driving around … with him in the car and I was like…. ‘What can I do? What am going to do? This is just terrible,'” she said. “So I parked and took him around the corner from my house to these people I knew that were there all the time and place … him on their porch.”
Dean was found by the neighbor and adopted by a couple who also lived in California.
Safe haven laws, which allow a person to leave a baby at a fire station, police station or a hospital without consequences, did not exist yet.
“Every time I go somewhere, where I see a ‘Safe Haven’ sign … it gets me every time, still, now, to this day,” Hauser said.
Hauser said she spent decades wondering how the children she had abandoned had turned out, thinking of them especially on their birthdays.
Watch what happens on ABC News “20/20” TONIGHT at 10 p.m. ET.