I had an email this morning from a friend who asked a great question. (I know you said you were sensitive, but this is a GREAT topic for my blog, and I think it's a wonderfully insightful question, so I'm giving A. full credit for this good topic!! I hope this is ok.).
I've actually gotten this question a few times lately, and have had a long discussion with another PAP (potential adoptive parent) about this very thing: names and adopted kiddos.
To answer the first question many people ask, so kindly (as A. did - "I love his name. I'm glad you kept it".) and others NOT so kindly ("what? That's his name? You're not going to give him a "normal" name?"): Is Minh's name his birth name? Did we change it? How did we decide?
Here's the answer - It is not his birth name. It is CLOSE to his birth name, but we changed it to another common VN name because we felt that we liked the sound of this one better than his birth name (americans can be so awful when pronouncing foreign names!!). However, Tod and I didn't actually PLAN to use this as his first name as we had had another "american" name picked out, but when we heard his birth name, the one very likely given to him by his birth mother, we fell in love with the whole package. We didn't even really discuss it after that!! He was just Minh!!
We had always intended to keep him VN birth name as his middle name, but as I said, when I looked at Tod and told him "We have a son. His name is Minh*" And it was.
I have appreciated when a few of you have emailed me privately to ask "Was this his birth name" or "How did you choose to keep his name". I've always thought (FOR US) it was important to keep some of the birth heritage alive in his name (or in Magic's name too), so that if and when my little ones go out into the wide world, and people see them as Vietnamese (or Chinese), then if they choose to, they will still have their name, to go with their face, their heritage, thier country of origin... Because as much as I hate it, we are ALL judged by others by our face, our skin, our eyes... I've heard other adoptees (from Asia) say that when they were "out in the world" be it collage, or just out and about with friends at the movies, other asians look at them as assume they are "asian"... that they are immigrants with chinese/korean/vietnamese speaking families. That they are EXPECTED to be what people see. Whatever that means...
Anyway, I don't know if this makes any sense. The long and the short of it is this: I wanted my son to have a name that worked in BOTH worlds. I just couldn't bring my obviously vietnamese baby back to the US and name him John. Or Stephen. Or Patrick. When Baby Magic comes home, we have a name picked out for her that we'll use, and it also works in both worlds. She'll get to have her chinese name too. If either of my children at some point when they are older decide they want to change their name back to their birth name, or change it all together, I'll try to be supportive. It's their name. If they want it back, I won't keep them from it.
In vietnam, often times the only information they have in the hospital where the babies are born are the parents names (which are fake, for obvious reasons), and the name of the baby. This, along with her DNA, might be the only thing Minh has from his Mother, and I would hate to take it away from him. That said, we did change his first name a little, and I hope he'll forgive us if it comes to that. But we are fortunate to have his original birth certificate (albeit in Vietnamese and French) but it holds his birth name. I'll keep this for his life book, so at least he'll have that if he wants it.
Anyway, I hope this answers the question in a reasonable way. It was one I personally struggled with, so it is nice to get positive feed-back! A few assholes did ask "But what's his AMERICAN name?"... And as gently as possible I say: Minh. My son's name is Minh.
Bless his heart.
* I'm not giving his birth name here, as I'm not sharing that unless you're family.