Janet Barnicoat always knew she was adopted. In 1981, her biological mother had left her in a paper bag when she was just hours old. Her umbilical cord was still attached and there was no note or way of knowing where she came from.
Barnicoat was adopted, and growing up, she was showered with love by her adoptive parents. But still, she wanted to know her origins. But in her search for truth, she found much more than who her parents were.
Barnicoat grew up with a loving adoptive family, but she couldn't brush aside her feelings of sadness and anger after being abandoned by her biological mother.
"I got really mad and angry [at my birth mother], and I held onto that for quite a long time," Barnicoat told ABC News. "How do you leave your child in a paper bag in an alleyway? It felt like, you know, she tossed me away. You put me next to a dumpster. It was tearing me up inside."
Now, as a mother of five herself, Barnicoat could not understand how a mother could abandon her child like that.
She wanted to know her roots
In search of her biological roots, Barnicoat sought out the woman who had called the police when she found a baby in the garbage can. Barnicoat was sure that this woman would have some clue about her past. When Barnicot met Joanne Housser in person, Barnicoat broke down in love and gratitude for her "guardian angel", but Housser did not tell her anything about her biological mother.
Still determined to find answers, Barnicoat sent a sample of her saliva to Ancestry.com to search for possible DNA matches. Soon, she received some brand new info about her family tree.
A special meeting
"I was checking my email, and it said that I had a possible DNA match," Barnicoat recalled. "It said that, 'You have a DNA match, close family.'" This match led her to her half-brother, Dean Hundorf, who had also been abandoned in a paper bag in the exact same city. The two siblings were shocked that their biological mother had abandoned them in the same way.
"It was like we had known each other forever," Hundorf said about their emotional reunion. "Like we had never skipped a beat."
Celebrating their newfound family, they were unaware life still had another surprise in store.
The strength of genetics
Both siblings then moved on to search for their mother - questioning why she had abandoned them. Was she very young? Was she afraid? Could she not feed them or raise them? While these questions were still unanswered, Hundorf and Barnicoat discovered they had another sibling.
Julie Hutchison had also been abandoned in the same way. Like her half-brother and half-sister, Julie was found within hours of being born, wrapped in a towel, with her umbilical cord still attached.
When the three siblings met, they were thrilled to find each other after years of not knowing anything about their biological family. But there was still a gaping hole left in their puzzle - who was their mother?
Discovering who their mom was came as a great shock, especially to Barnicoat. The woman who had posed as Barnicoat's guardian angel, claiming she had found the abandoned baby near a dumpster, was actually her and her siblings' biological mother.
Yes, Hausser had abandoned her three children, all just hours after being born, with their umbilical cord still attached.
Despite the many years of anger all three siblings felt for their biological mother, they decided to forgive her and concentrate on strengthening their family.
"I hated you," Barnicoat told her mom after discovering the truth. "And I can't, I can't anymore.
Hausser said after giving up her babies, she never went a day without thinking of all three of them.
When asked if she's forgiven herself, Hausser replied with tears in her eyes, "I don't think I have. I don't think so. I don't know how I can. I don't know how I'm going to get there, I really don't."
Today, these three siblings have an astounding story to tell. They've left behind the frustration of feeling abandoned and forgave their biological mother. And now their astounding story has a happy ending - they now have opportunity to get to know their biological family and make up for lost time.