What happened when I found a newborn baby in a McDonald’s toilet

The mother had given birth less than 10 minutes before we walked in

Erika was in Rome around Christmas a few years ago. Late one night, in the middle of the week, Erica and a friend went into a McDonald’s on their way home to use their toilet. What they found shocked them. This is her story.

We went straight downstairs into the women’s toilets. My friend, who was walking in front of me, opened one of the several stalls in what clearly was an empty bathroom. She suddenly let go of the door and she faintly pointed at it, incapable of saying anything.

Upon opening the stall I thought that someone had dropped ketchup all over the floor. Then I glanced at the toilet. I cannot recall what went through my mind in that moment. There was a baby, in the toilet. Dead or alive, I didn’t know.


I turned to my friend and I told her to run upstairs and call for help. I’m now ashamed to say this, but I thought the baby was dead and instincts told me to stay away from it. It took me a few seconds to realise what I should have done immediately. I grabbed the baby, whose head was barely surfacing from the water in the toilet. He was all purple and wrinkled, but very much alive.

I heard two or three people entering the bathroom, looking puzzled and suddenly realising what was going on. Would you believe it if somebody came up to you and told you she found a baby in a toilet?

The baby was found in a cubicle just like this

The baby was found in a cubicle just like this

Moments later a McDonald’s employee arrived with a basin full of hot water. A woman – she must have been in her thirties – washed the baby and dried him under the hand dryer upon instruction of a doctor who – I later realised – must have been the one arriving on the ambulance.

Within five minutes the baby was on his way to the hospital and the police arrived. After a brief recount of what had happened, they started watching security videos. A woman – who was later recognised as a prostitute known in the area – had given birth less than 10 minutes before we walked into the bathroom. She had torn the umbilical cord and left without anybody noticing.

After a sleepless night – which included a policeman asking who among us was the mother – my friends and I went to the hospital where we figured they had brought the baby. Although we shouldn’t have been allowed in, a nurse let us sneak in to see him. They had called him Emanuele and he was adopted after not even being a day old.

CCTV footage captured the woman entering the toilet

CCTV footage captured the woman entering the toilet

The news was already on local and national papers by the time we left the hospital. I’m positive there were no journalists there but I saw our words quoted, misquoted and the story manipulated to make it sound more tragic. As if there was the need.

People always ask if I was in shock but the truth is that I was not. It was all too surreal to make it shocking. However people seldom ask what would have happened if the baby hadn’t survived or what I thought when I saw the mother leaving her baby to die.

What is shocking – now that I know the baby is safe – is that a woman didn’t feel free enough to go to a hospital to deliver her baby.